4 Subtle Heart Attack Symptoms Women Need to Know About

In women, signs of a heart attack can be mistaken for other, less serious conditions

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Heart disease is the number killer in the U.S., and doctors say the signs of a heart attack can more subtle in women.

Those subtle signs are what D.C. area single mom Monique Acosta House missed when she went into heart failure in her twenties.

"I went to several, you know, top-notch physicians in the DMV area and they would not take me as a patient," she said.

Her health troubles started when she was 22 and in college, when she’d brushed off symptoms of heart failure as stress from school.

"I was very busy and I just didn’t have energy and I had this left arm pain that kept me up at night," she said.

Those symptoms are what Dr. Roquell Wyche says women really need to pay attention to.

"Something as simple as feeling nauseous and hot and sweaty after exertion and that can be signs of a heart attack," Wyche said.


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Body aches and nausea mistaken for the flu could actually be from a decrease in blood flow to the heart.

Instead of asthma, shortness of breath, even at rest, could be a sign your arteries are blocked.

"Women typically have small vessel disease so their symptoms tend to be much more subtle," Wyche said.

Burning in your chest may feel like heartburn but it could be a heart attack since your esophagus sits next to the heart.

And that pain in your shoulders, jaw, or neck, you think is a pulled muscle could be the pain of a heart attack.

"When you think about all your friends, your family, your daughters, your sisters, your aunts, your nieces, almost 50 percent of them have some form of cardiovascular disease, which is pretty significant," said Wyche.

That’s why House says it’s so important to be aware of the signs and symptoms so you know when to go to the doctor.

"A lot of people don’t understand why they feel the way they do and then what they can do to prevent it," House said.

By working with her doctors, and paying attention to how her body feels, she was able to live 20 more years with her heart before getting a transplant.

It's also allowed her to watch her son, Asa, grow up. He's now 16 years old and a miracle in her eyes.

For more information, visit the website for the American Heart Association's Greater Washington Region chapter.

Correction: The names of Monique Acosta House and Dr. Roquell Wyche have been corrected in this article.

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