Heart attack is one of the foremost causes of death in the U.S. Its occurrence can be reduced by looking out for signs and symptoms, thereby taking precautionary measures.


In the past, chest pain was considered one of the sure signs of a heart attack. However, further studies have revealed a lot of other symptoms as well. Interestingly, the symptoms in men and women differ and depend on factors such as age and the type of heart disease a person is suffering from.

It is vital to identify the early symptoms of a heart attack and get emergency care in time to prevent extensive damage to the heart or to recover completely. It has been found that up to 85% of the damage to the heart occurs within the first 2 hours of a heart attack. Thus, it is important to know the early signs and symptoms:

  • Pain experienced in the neck, shoulder, and jaw
  • Sweating profusely
  • A stuttering pain in the chest that comes and goes, making one uncomfortable
  • Breathlessness
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Feeling confused or experiencing severe anxiety
  • Fainting or feelings of lightheadedness
  • Sense of impending doom


These are general symptoms, but it is helpful to know the distinguishing symptoms in men and women as well.


Symptoms of a heart attack seen in men

Men are more likely than women to experience a heart attack, especially at an earlier age as compared to women. The chances of a heart attack are even higher if the person has a history of heart ailments in the family or a history of obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol, or high blood pressure.

The symptoms experienced by men during an attack include:

  1. Discomfort or pain in the upper body including the jaw, neck, left shoulder, arms, back, and stomach
  2. It feels like an elephant is sitting on the chest, along with a sensation of squeezing that may be constant and intense or intermittent
  3. Heartbeat is irregular or rapid
  4. Breathlessness or shortness of breath is experienced, even while resting
  5. Indigestion and discomfort in the stomach
  6. Breaking into a cold sweat
  7. Feeling dizzy or as if you are going to pass out


Symptoms of a heart attack seen in women

Women experience different symptoms compared to men prior to a heart attack, such as:

  1. Feeling sudden and severe fatigue or unusual fatigue that lasts for quite a few days
  2. Anxiety
  3. Disturbances in sleep
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Lightheadedness
  6. Gas-like pain or indigestion
  7. Pain in the shoulder, upper back, or throat
  8. Pain spreading to the jaw or jaw pain
  9. Pain or pressure experienced in the center of the chest, which spreads to the arms


Women over 50 or menopausal women should be more careful because the drop in estrogen levels post-menopause increases the chances of a heart attack, which is usually fatal, as compared to men. Women over 50 experience additional symptoms such as irregular or rapid heartbeat, sweating, discomfort or pain in one or both arms, in the jaw, neck, back or stomach, and severe pain in the chest.


Any symptom that seems out of the ordinary, whether for men or women, must be reported to the doctor and consulted about.