Heart disease remains the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, yet its signs seem to evade even the most health-conscious females. Mainly, this is because heart-attack symptoms can be hard to decipher, especially since they can be quite different from the tell-tale signs men experience. As Nieca Goldberg, M.D., chief of the Women's Heart Program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, explains, "We usually picture a middle-aged man clutching his chest, but a woman having a heart attack can experience less common symptoms." While any of the signs below may be experienced by either sex, generally they fall into the male or female designation.
READING THE SIGNS FOR MEN
- Chest tightness, pressure or heaviness
- Pain that may radiate to shoulders, neck or arms, especially the left arm
- Sudden rapid heartbeats
READING THE SIGNS FOR WOMEN
- Discomfort that feels like heartburn in lower chest area Discomfort in the neck, jaw, or between the shoulder blades
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Unexplained fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Left-arm tightness
- Any signs listed for men, but less common
One more thing to keep in mind: Don't deny symptoms because you think you're too young for a heart attack. "Heart attacks are less common among younger women [under 50]," says Goldberg, "but studies show that they're twice as fatal."