Heart Attack Symptoms: Men vs. Women

Although some symptoms are similar between men and women when experiencing a heart attack, there are also differences. It is important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms for both men and women so you may recognize them if you or someone else is experiencing a heart attack.

McLaren Flint cardiology specialists say both men and women are likely to share the following symptoms of a heart attack: pain or discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath, throat tightness, pain in the shoulders, neck or jaw, breaking out in cold sweats, nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, and an indigestion or gas type feeling.


“It isn’t as common for women to have classic heaviness or a tightness sensation as it is for men,” said Hameem Changezi, MD, interventional cardiologist at McLaren Flint. “Symptoms in the throat and pain in the upper back are also less common for women.


“One symptom that happens more often in women than in men is a lack of energy and an onset of extreme fatigue. In older women in particular, they may just not feel good or have unexplained shortness of breath.”

It is also important to know the risk factors that can make it more likely for you to have a heart attack. If you have a family history of heart disease or a history of cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or obesity, your chances of having a heart attack are even higher.


“Men and women should familiarize themselves with their risk profile,” said Dr. Changezi. “Men in general are more likely to have a heart attack, but if they don’t smoke and maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure, they can lower their risk.

“If you are a woman under 45 and haven’t gone through menopause or had a full hysterectomy, your risk is lower. If you are overweight, diabetic, have high blood pressure, and smoke, your risk will be higher, regardless of your age.”

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is vital to lowering the risk of heart attack in both men and women. It is important to know the signs of a heart attack so you can recognize them, and quickly get the help you need. It is equally important to take the steps necessary to lower your risk by adopting a healthy lifestyle to avoid the likelihood of a heart attack happening in the first place.

Learn more about McLaren Flint’s comprehensive cardiac services and providers at mclaren.org/flintheart.