American Heart Month

American Heart Month

Heart Disease Symptoms in Women

February is heart disease awareness month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death of both men and women worldwide. Often, we associate heart attacks with men forgetting that, especially after menopause, women are also at risk for heart attacks. Alarmingly, the symptoms of a heart attack may look very different in men and women.

One day in 2016 I was having a casual conversation with my mother. In that conversation she mentioned a dream that she had the night before. I don’t remember the specifics of the dream, but I do remember it was something that caused her to wake up feeling discombobulated and that she mentioned that she remembered feeling jaw pain. I was immediately alarmed and told her to call her doctor immediately. Thankfully she followed my advice and was able to get in to see a doctor very quickly. That info plus her mention of being short of breath lead them to schedule a stress test for her heart. They stopped the test in the middle, and she was scheduled for a procedure to put a stent into one of her arteries which was 90% blocked.

Fast forward a few years to February 2020 and I get a call from my dad to say that my mom was in the hospital, and they suspected she may have had a heart attack. That day she described a crushing fatigue and incredible pain in her left arm that was preventing her from even lifting the arm. She recounted going to the bathroom and being so tired that she sat down outside the door unable to make it to the bed. She needed another stent.

Neither of these times did she have the traditional heart attack symptoms of chest pain. Often women never experience the chest pain. I was aware that jaw pain can sometimes indicate heart issues. It is a good thing I knew this and that she listened. Getting her in to the doctor before she had a heart attack was very lucky.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in women

Women do sometimes have the chest pain. Other symptoms include:

pressure in the chest

nausea or stomach upset

pain in the arm, jaw, back or neck

shortness or breath


cold sweat or lightheadness

If you experience any symptoms that are concerning, please call 911 or go to the ER immediately. Better to be safe than sorry.

Visit the American Heart Association for more information on the symptoms of heart disease.

Blog Authored by:  Dr. Stacey-Ann Baugh

Stacey is an Associate professor of psychology.  Originally from Jamaica she now lives and works in the DC metro area.

Blog also published at:  Heart Disease Symptoms in Women - Stacey-Ann Says (