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What Are the Symptoms of a Heart Attack in Men and Women? (video)

Poulina Uddin, MD, a cardiologist at Scripps Clinic and the Scripps Women's Heart Center, explains some of the most important differences in the way men and women experience a heart attack, and what you should do if you think you are having a heart attack.

Video transcript

Video transcript

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women?

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women can be the classic ones that a lot of people expect, for example, chest pain, or difficulty breathing, or excessive sweating. However, for women, sometimes there are some more non-specific symptoms, for example, jaw pain or neck pain, pain in the back, really unusual fatigue, or epigastric or stomach pain. Sometimes it can be confused as heartburn as well. So those are some additional signs that women should look out for.

What are the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in men? 

The signs and symptoms of a heart attack in men tend to be more classic, chest pressure or heaviness or chest pain, shortness of breath, and also excessive sweating sometimes as well. Those are the most common ones that men will report.

How long can heart attack symptoms last?

Heart attack symptoms can last even for a couple of minutes or up to several days or weeks, depending on how severe and how quickly it's progressing. So for example, sometimes it can be very acute, where all of a sudden, out of the blue, somebody was feeling fine and then they have some of those symptoms we just discussed. Other times it can be this slow, gradual process that kind of comes on for weeks to months before it gradually gets worse.

What should you do if you think you're having a heart attack?

If you think you're having a heart attack, absolutely go to the emergency room. I would recommend calling 911 or having somebody drive you if you think you're having a heart attack. We prefer that to somebody Googling their symptoms or trying to figure it out by talking to friends. If you really think you're having a heart attack, best to get to the emergency room, the closest one, as quickly as possible.

Watch more Ask the Expert videos now for quick answers to common medical questions.