Many women don’t even experience chest pain.
Heart attack symptoms aren’t the same for everyone—especially women—and one survivor, who has learned this firsthand, wants to spread the word in order to save lives. In a Twitter post that has since gone viral, a female nurse (Twitter name “gwheezie”) shares the lesser-known heart attack symptoms she suffered leading up to her hospitalization. And, what she has to say is so important.
“I want to warn women our heart attacks feel different,” she wrote. “Last Sunday I had a heart attack. I had a 95% block in my left anterior descending artery. I’m alive because I called 911. I never had chest pain. It wasn’t what you read in pamphlets. I had it off & on for weeks.”
She explains that her symptoms included pain running across her upper back, shoulder blades and equally down both arms. “It felt like burning & aching,” she described. “I actually thought it was a muscle strain.” It wasn’t until she was drenched in sweat and started vomiting that she called 911.
“I’m a nurse. I’m an older woman. I had been spending the week helping my neighbor clean out her barn, I thought I strained some muscles,” she continued. “I took Motrin & put a warm pack on my shoulders, I almost died because I didn’t call it chest pain.”
She was taken by medics to a hospital that did cardiac catheterizations, including four stents which were placed in the hour after her arrival. Cardiac catheterization is a procedure done to identify a heart problem and diagnose heart disease. During cardiac catheterization, a catheter—a long tube—is inserted into an artery or vein in your groin, neck and arm, and is threaded to the blood vessels in your heart. Through this catheter, your doctor will run tests and identify where there are blockages. In gwheezie’s case, her doctor placed four stents, which are small metal coils, in the clogged arteries to help clear the blockages and prevent narrowing. Just days later, gwheezie returned home and is currently “doing really well.”
Gwheezie’s tweet was shared more than 25,000 times, and many women responded to to her by sharing their own equally scary experiences with having heart attacks. While some people, like Laura Wright, attested to the fact that “sometime’s [sic] women’s heart attacks feel very much like men’s,” with crushing chest pain, nausea, and arm pain, others revealed they too had suffered unusual symptoms.
One woman, Jennifer Laidlaw, shared her mother’s situation. She said she “went to the ER thinking it was really bad HEARTBURN,” she wrote.
Others mistook their symptoms as anxiety, or thought they had “slept wrong” on their neck.
The 7 heart attacks symptoms women need to know
This viral Twitter feed is an important reminder to listen to your body when it is sending you signs—and not to brush off any unusual symptoms as no big deal. In addition to chest pain, other heart attack symptoms in women can include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Profuse sweating
- Mild pain in regions of the body such as the breastbone, upper back, shoulders, neck, or jaw
- Nausea or dizziness
Learn more about heart attack symptoms in women on the American Heart Association. If you think you might be suffering from a heart attack, call 911 immediately—every second counts!