Each year in the United States, an estimated 38,000 women younger than 50 have a heart attack. Get to know the symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
Shortness of breath/racing heart
It can be difficult to differentiate between a panic attack and a heart attack because they share symptoms. A few distinguishing characteristics: Panic attacks can be triggered (though not always) by a stressful event, and other signs might include trembling, intense terror and an overwhelmingsense of doom. Panic attacks also typically come on suddenly and pass within five minutes, while women’s heart-attack symptoms tend to start slowly and linger. The only way to be sure what’s happening is to get to the ER.
Tingling down one or both arms or legs
Although this often means you have a pinched nerve or arthritis in your neck, it’s important to rule out heart problems first. See your doctor if you notice any tingling in your extremities.
Feeling faint for no obvious reason (aside from doing a tough workout, for example, or being dehydrated) could mean the heart is receiving insufficient blood. Beware if you’re also short of breath and suffering a cold sweat.
Your jaw could hurt if you’re having a heart attack, because the nerves attached to it lie close to ones that come out of your heart. If the pain is constant, you probably have a dental problem; if it recurs intermittently and gets worse when you exert yourself, the problem is more likely to be heart-related.
You could have more than just a bug if your tummy woes are accompanied by other cardiac symptoms such as shortness of breath, a cold sweat or pain in your chest or back.
Discomfort or burning in the chest or back
Women often describe a heart attack as tightness, heaviness, pressure or a squeezing sensation. The pain doesn’t have to be severe or sudden; it could come and go for weeks and often be mistaken for indigestion or heartburn. If the discomfort doesn’t come on shortly after a meal, if you don’t normally have indigestion or if you’re also experiencing symptoms such as nausea, the trouble needs to be diagnosed promptly by a doctor.
If you’re unable to walk a block without discomfort, or if you feel you have to stop and rest while going about your daily activities, it could be a sign that blood is not getting to the heart fast enough.
NEXT: HOW HEART ATTACKS HAPPEN