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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Symptoms of Heart Attack and Stroke in Women

The classic symptoms of a heart attack are less often experienced by women. Women often have more subtle symptoms, labeled as "atypical" (not typical). Nonetheless, although these symptoms are "atypical" for men, they may be very typical in women! Not everyone experiencing angina or a heart attack will have all of the warning signs of heart attack. The most important thing is that symptoms are recognized as possible heart attack symptoms. Getting help early can prevent lasting heart damage due to a heart attack.

Symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest pain: This is the most common symptom preceding a heart attack in women. Women often describe this chest pain as a pressure, tightness, or achiness in the center of the chest. Because chest pain experienced by women is often less severe than what is described by men, women should take milder chest pain very seriously.
  • Pain or discomfort lasting more than 20 minutes in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath is a common symptom experienced by women, even without chest pain.
  • Other symptoms, such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea (feeling sick to your stomach), or feeling faint or woozy.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Fast heartbeat (palpitations)
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Problems breathing
  • Indigestion (upset stomach) or loss of appetite
  • Anxiety (feeling uneasy or worried)

Symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Sudden weakness or numbness of face or limb on one side
  • Sudden severe headache
  • Difficulty talking or understanding speech
  • Unexplained dizziness
  • Sudden diminished or loss of vision in one eye

If you feel you are having a heart attack or stroke, call 911.


Center for Women's Cardiovascular Health
1-866-662-8467 (toll free)

Information line
312-MYHEART (694-3278)

Last UpdateNovember 23, 2012

Referrals &

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Northwestern Lake Forest:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Northwestern Grayslake:
847-LF-HEART (534-3278)

Glenview Outpatient Center:

847-724-GLEN (4536)