The classic sign of a heart attack is a man or woman clutching their chest before collapsing.
But while chest pain is indeed one of the usual signs of heart attack, not having it doesn't necessarily mean you're not experiencing one – particularly if you're a woman.
A 2012 US study of more than a million heart attack patients found slightly more women than men had a heart attack without chest pain: 42% of women compared to 30.7% of men.
But although chest pain is still the most common heart attack symptom for both genders, some symptoms can be much less obvious, and they can even vary between males and females.
As a new study has found that women are more likely to be misdiagnosed of a heart attack than men, we investigate the differing symptoms.
Heart attack symptoms in common
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) estimates that around 50,000 men and 32,000 women have heart attacks every year in England alone. For both women and men, the typical symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest pain, which can vary from severe to uncomfortable, and is sometimes described as heavy, crushing, pressing or squeezing
- Pain in the arms, neck, jaw, back or stomach
- Unusual fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
Heart attack symptoms - mainly men
Heart attack symptoms - mainly women
- Sleep disturbance
If you think you or anyone else is having a heart attack, call 999 immediately.
Women are more likely to have difficulty getting heart problems diagnosed, and after diagnosis, they're less likely to get the support they need, according to a recent British Heart Foundation survey. It found only 41% of women said getting a heart diagnosis had been straightforward, compared with 51% of men. Women were more likely to initially be told there was nothing wrong with them (10% of women, 6% of men).
What the expert says:
June Davison, a senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says great progress has been made in saving the lives of people suffering from heart attacks, and seven out of 10 people now survive.
However, she says that with nearly 70,000 people still dying from coronary heart disease (CHD) - which causes most heart attacks - each year, much more research is needed.
Although more than twice as many women die from CHD as from breast cancer, Davison points out that some women still don’t realise heart disease could happen to them, which can make them less likely to recognise symptoms and call 999.
“We know that women are less likely to be diagnosed and treated than men and more must be done to address this imbalance,” she stresses.