Heart attack is a life-threatening medical emergency affecting millions worldwide every year. While heart attacks are commonly associated with men, they are also a significant health concern for women. Heart diseases account for approximately one-third of deaths in women globally.

Despite the high incidence of heart disease in women, it is often undiagnosed and undertreated, leading to severe outcomes. Here, we explore in detail the causes, symptoms, and methods of heart attack prevention in women.

What is a heart attack?

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. This leads to damaged heart muscles and severe outcomes if left untreated. The most prevalent cause of heart attack is coronary artery disease or CAD, in which the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow and clogged with plaque.

Symptoms of heart attack in women

According to the American Heart Association, heart disease accounts for 1 in 3 deaths in women, and nearly half of all women with heart attacks have a short life span.

Women are more prone to experience atypical symptoms during a heart attack than men. The classic symptoms of chest pain, pressure, or discomfort may not be present, and women tend to experience other symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Back pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Fatigue

It is thus advisable to never ignore any such atypical symptoms and seek medical attention urgently. Delayed diagnosis and treatment can increase the risk of complications and death.

Risk factors of heart attack in women

Several risk factors increase the likelihood of heart attack in women, including:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD)
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Excessive smoking
  • Hormonal changes during menopause
  • Pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Family history of heart disease
  • Autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis

Understanding and taking steps to manage these risk factors can help reduce a woman's risk of heart attack and improve overall heart health.

Prevention of heart attack in women

Prevention is critical when it comes to heart attacks. Changes in one's lifestyle can greatly reduce the risk:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can elevate your risk of heart disease. Aim to maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly.
  • Quit smoking: Smoking is a notable risk factor for heart disease and should be quit.
  • Exercise regularly: Regular exercise can help lower your risk of heart disease. Aim to get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week.
  • Eat a healthy diet: A balanced diet with plenty of fruits, whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein is crucial.
  • Manage stress: Chronic stress can elevate your risk of heart disease. Find healthy ways to manage stress, like meditation, yoga, or talking to a therapist.
  • Manage medical conditions: If you have a medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, work with your doctor to manage it effectively.
  • Know your family history: If you have a family history of heart disease, talk to your doctor about what steps you can take to lower your risk.


Heart attack in women is a serious health concern that requires attention and awareness. Women are more likely to undergo atypical symptoms during a heart attack, which can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment. By knowing the signs, understanding the risk factors, and taking steps to prevent heart disease, women can reduce their risk and improve their overall health. It is essential to prioritize your heart health and seek medical attention immediately if you experience any concerning symptoms.

Dr. Khaldoun Taha


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