Most people are aware of the common symptoms of heart attack, such as pain in the chest and left arm, but did you know that there are other symptoms too?

Other symptoms that may be experienced by heart attack patients include:

  • Pain that spreads to the neck, back, jaw or abdomen
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Shortness of breath and sweating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Overwhelming feeling of anxiety
  • Coughing or wheezing


It is sometimes claimed that women experience different heart attack symptoms to men, but research from the University of Edinburgh has found this to be a myth1. The research found there was no difference in key heart attack symptoms between men and women. The most common symptom for both men and women was chest pain, and a similar percentage of men and women reported pain that spread to their left arm.


However, it has been found that women having a heart attack tend to delay getting medical help longer than men because they are less likely to recognise the symptoms, which reduces their chances of survival. Heart disease if also often wrongly considered to be a ‘man’s disease’. This results in women waiting longer to call 999 than men, which reduces their chance of survival.


Another research study2 has shown that women have a 50% higher chance of receiving the wrong initial diagnosis after a heart attack which means they are less likely than men to promptly receive the life-saving treatments they need. Also, research has shown3 that women were about half as likely as men to receive recommended heart attack treatments. This means that women with coronary heart disease are dying unnecessarily from heart attacks and have worse outcomes than men because they don’t receive the same care and treatment as men.


The British Heart Foundation has published a report that found the gender inequalities in heart attack care have led to more than 8,000 women dying needlessly from heart attack over the last decade. Again, the misperception that heart attack is a man’s disease, together with a possible unconscious bias in the healthcare delivery, lead to delayed and poorer treatment for women.


There are 380,000 women alive today who have survived a heart attack.

  1. Presenting Symptoms in Men and Women Diagnosed With Myocardial Infarction Using Sex‐Specific Criteria, Ferry AV et al, JAHA 2019, Vol 8, No 17
  2. Editor’s Choice – Impact of initial hospital diagnosis on mortality for acute myocardial infarction: A national cohort study, Wu J et al, Eur Heart J: Acute Cardiovasc Care 2018 Mar;7(2):139-148 (first published 2016)
  3. Sex-Specific Thresholds of High-Sensitivity Troponin in Patients With Suspected Acute Coronary Syndrome, Lee KK et al, J Am Coll Cardiol. 2019, 74 (16) 2032–2043

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