When it comes to the heart, women and men are definitely different. For example, a man’s heart typically weighs about 10 ounces, while a woman’s heart weighs around 8 ounces.

During a heart attack, women can also experience vastly different symptoms than men. The signs of trouble are often more subtle and harder to detect. For example, women are more likely to experience nausea, indigestion, excessive fatigue, shortness of breath and pain in the back, jaw or shoulder rather than the crushing chest pain that is a classic symptom among men. Indeed, women can have a heart attack without experiencing any chest pressure at all.

Because their symptoms are often less severe, women often believe their heart-attack symptoms are the sign of a less life-threatening condition such as acid reflux or the flu. As a result, they are less likely to seek immediate medical help and therefore suffer more significant heart damage. That’s the reason it’s so important for women to know the signs of a heart attack, listen closely to their body and take action when they think something may be wrong.

What to Do

If you or someone you’re with has chest discomfort or other heart attack symptoms, call 911 right away. While your first impulse may be to drive yourself or the heart attack victim to the hospital, it’s better to get an ambulance. Emergency medical services (EMS) personnel can start treatment on the way to the hospital. They’re also trained to revive a person if their heart stops.

Many people delay treatment because they doubt they are having a heart attack. They don’t want to bother or worry their friends and family. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Acting quickly can save lives. If given quickly after symptoms, clot-busting and artery-opening medications can stop a heart attack. The longer you wait for treatment, the more chances of survival go down and damage to the heart goes up.

Know Your Risk

Knowledge is power. Cardiovascular screenings and heart-health risk assessments provide you and your doctor with information about your heart’s current state of health. Once you have an accurate picture of your heart health, you can manage and often prevent further damage to your heart.

Sources: American Heart Association & CDC