In fact, heart attacks in women can often go undiagnosed because symptoms may be vague or largely absent. In men, symptoms are typically experienced as crushing chest pain that radiates down one arm, while women will often have more a feeling of fullness or squeezing in the chest, like being trapped in a vise that is increasingly tight.
Women do also experience pain the arm(s), as well as in the back, neck, or jaw. This can cause understandable confusion as we usually expect a heart attack to cause severe pain in the chest rather than elsewhere in the body. The pain may begin in the chest and then radiate to the shoulder, neck and jaw, and then affecting the arms. The pain may be gradual, sudden, intermittent, vague or increasingly intense.
The pain of a heart attack may wake up those who are sleeping, while others have a heart attack without ever being aware of it.
Other symptoms of a heart attack in women, aside from neck pain, can include:
- Stomach pain – easily confused with heartburn, flu, an ulcer, or indigeston.
- Unwarranted shortness of breath – as well as nausea and lightheadedness, i.e., feeling like you just finished a marathon, when you didn’t move.
- Sweating and anxiety – easily confused with hot flashes in menopausal women, these heart attack symptoms feel more like stress-related perspiring.
- Fatigue – a common symptom of extreme tiredness without apparent cause. Sometimes described as tiredness in the chest.
Unfortunately, many of the symptoms of heart attack in women can also be manifestations of an anxiety attack, or of chronic stress, infection, and poor nutrition. Not all instances of neck pain and radiating arm and chest pain are a sign of heart attack, but anyone experiencing acute symptoms like those above should seek emergency medical assistance.