Yes…Young Women Can Have Heart Attacks!

Written by Linda Carroll

life_youngattackNot too long ago I was told a terrifying tale about a young woman and a heart attack. The 40-year-old woman arrived at the emergency room of her local hospital displaying a multitude of symptoms that made it clear that a heart attack was in progress Рat least it was obvious to a nurse in the ER.

After hooking the woman up to medications to help deal with the attack, the nurse alerted other doctors to the case and then went home at the end of her shift figuring all was well. When the nurse returned to work the next day, she was shocked to discover that doctors in the ER had stopped the medications, told the woman she was simply having a panic attack and sent her home. The woman suffered major damage to her heart.

Unfortunately, many doctors don’t suspect a heart attack when they see a young woman with chest pain. And, while it’s true that heart attacks are more common among young men than young women, women are not exempt . Figures from the National Center for Health Statistics show that in 1998, approximately 11,000 women under the age of 45 were hospitalized for heart attacks.

When a heart attack strikes a young woman, she is likely to suffer debilitating damage or die. In a study that looked at gender differences among heart attack victims, researchers found that heart attacks were far more likely to be deadly if the victim was female. In fact, when Dr. Viola Vaccarino and her colleagues looked only at patients under age 50, they found that twice as many women as men died in the days following a heart attack.

Part of the explanation for this frightening statistic is that young women with heart attacks often get either no treatment or they receive delayed care. Sometimes women, and sometimes their doctors, miss the attack because they don’t realize that the symptoms of a heart attack may vary with the patient’s gender, says Vaccarino, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Medicine. Compared to men, during a heart attack women are much more likely to experience back pain, indigestion and nausea and/or vomiting, rather than chest pain, as their symptoms, according to an earlier study by Vaccarino.

And while the bigger teaching hospitals are beginning to catch on, it’s still not uncommon for doctors at smaller institutions to miss heart attacks in younger women, says Dr. Marianne Legato, founder and director of The Partnership for Women’s Health and a professor of clinical medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York City. Legato recently reviewed the records for a young woman in her 20s who showed up at a hospital complaining of nausea and vomiting, as well as chest pain. The possibility that the woman might be having a heart attack never occurred to the doctors examining her. She was dead within 48 hours.

When Vaccarino and her colleagues looked at death rates from heart attacks in young people, they found that misdiagnosis and delays in medical care could only explain part of the discrepancy between men and women. This is an area that needs further research, she says.

But, while doctors are at a loss to explain why heart attacks occur in otherwise healthy young women, they have pinpointed a group who are at an elevated risk. Women who smoke, are obese, have diabetes and/or high blood pressure are more likely than others to have a heart attack, Legato says. “And diabetes is a much more important risk factor for women than men,” she adds. “Once you have it, your risk for [heart disease] is four to six times higher.”

Ultimately, women need to know the signs of a heart attack and demand proper care if they think they may be having one. If you have risk factors for a heart attack, no matter whether you are in your 20s or 30s or 40s, and you feel you are experiencing a heart attack, don’t allow the doctor to dismiss your symptoms as indigestion or anxiety. Tell them you want to be tested. If you don’t, the consequences could be deadly.

The following symptoms could signal heart ills:

  1. Angina (chest pain). Can also include back pain or deep aching and throbbing in the left or right bicep or forearm.
  2. Breathlessness. Also may include waking up having difficulty catching one’s breath.
  3. Clammy perspiration.
  4. Dizziness. Unexplained lightheadedness, even blackouts.
  5. Edema. Swelling, particularly of the ankles or lower legs.
  6. Fluttering. Rapid heartbeats.
  7. Gastric upset (or nausea).
  8. Heavy fullness. Also may include pressure-like chest pain between breasts and radiating to left arm or shoulder.

If you are experiencing these symptoms please do not wait, contact a doctor immediately for your own safety.

Sources: ACOG/Medical Tribune News Service

devo-interact-icon-42x42Missing the mark of being a perfect mom? Discover how you can be yourself by taking this free Life Lesson


345 Responses to “Yes…Young Women Can Have Heart Attacks!”

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    None of us here on this site are doctors but what we tell each person is the same thing, you need to see a medical professional if you are having symptoms of a heart attach, regardless of your age or sex. However, having said that, a blood pressure of 190/110 is much, much too high and you need to see a doctor to get that under control before you do have a heart attack of stroke.

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    You are so right that panic attacks can feel very much like a heart attack. But the only way that you can know for sure that it isn’t a heart attack is to actually go to a doctor or emergency room and get yourself checked out.

  • arthi says:

    y im not getting any replies from here

  • arthi says:

    hi im arthi suffering from severe blood pressure of 190/110 .. Few days before i went to doctor and dey precribed termekind tablet . But i feel uneasy and unable to work.

  • arthi says:

    Hi im arthi, im having blood pressure of 190/110. i had slight chest pain ,is der any problem in my health

  • ara v javier says:

    i am ara 26 this august a mother of 2 kids,..i had suffer palpitation 1 month ago,..i went to the doctor and i undergone ecg,cardiac test even my b.p were all nomal,..then i went home,..then the next day i experienced again the same attact,..i felt so cold,..i was thinking im having a heart attack but i realized i dont have any chest pain only a palpitation and so many negative thoughts and fear,..i went to the doctor again and still no result,..then i did my own research i found out that all the symptoms that i felt even now is a panic attack,..panic attack is the same symptoms of heart attack but some of the panic attack dont feel,
    more like illution.heart attack are more like pain..

  • Doris Beck Doris Beck says:

    You need to get it checked out! There are too many women on this thread that didn’t realize it was a heart attack….

  • Brittany says:

    I am a 27 year old mother of one. Yesterday I experienced what I thought was a panic attack at first, but turned into something I’d never experienced before. I removed my bra in an attempt to relieve the chest tightness, then I thought I was going to be sick. I ended up on the bathroom floor with severe nausea and dizziness and a freezing cold sweat. I even removed my glasses Bc I was sure I was about to lose consciousness. After about 15 min I was well enough to get off the floor. But I never felt 100% again and ended up sleeping the rest of the day. I keep telling myself it was a panic attack, but I can’t shake the feeling that it was something much more serious. I have no insurance and can’t afford to go to the dr for something that turns out to be a panic attack. But I don’t want to make a foolish mistake that ends up leaving my child without a mom.

  • Susan says:

    I had a heart attack last week. I am a 46 year old slightly overweight very active female. No diabetes no family history no high cholesterol. If my friends had not drug me to the hospital with my chest pain and jaw pain, I would probably be dead. It can happen to anyone.

  • Michael Jantzen Michael Jantzen says:

    Hello Pam, are you able to see a doctor to check out where the pain is coming from?

  • Pam says:

    Am I having heart attack symptoms? I’m a 56 year old female. For the 2nd day in a row I’m experiencing sharp stabbing pain from between my shoulder blades to the center of my chest. It was worse today than yesterday. The pain has lessened but I still have a feeling of weight in my chest.

  • Ericka says:

    I have been having a constant ache in between my shoulder blades, in both arms, my neck, jaw, chest, and wrists. My gallbladder has been removed, so I know it’s not that. All of the symptoms come and go, except the middle back pain. It is AWLAYS THERE. I have been to two different cardiologist. I have had bloodwork, ekgs, ecgs, a stress echo, and wore a monitor for 24 hrs but the drs seem to find nothing. Heart disease does run in my family, and I am overweight by about 60lbs. Has anyone ever passed all these tests and still had a heart attack??

  • Monique says:

    Hi Jennifer (May 23rd) I had symptoms like you, chest xray was CLEAR, ECG clear, but kept me in hospital cos of fatigue and shortness of breath. Put me thru CT and found out I had BILATERAL PULMOARY EMBOLISM………I was in hospital for 12 days three Specialists said I could have had a stroke, heart attack or died if I wouldn’t have listened to my body .
    INSIST on a CT something doesn’t “gel” with your situation, don’t let them “fob” you off, it’s YOUR body and YOU know when something isn’t right.
    Because I initially ignored my symptoms and soldiered on,and I had them for a few weeks, I now have the right Ventricular of my heart stretched. It’s 5 weeks since I was diagnosed, am now on Warfarin they said the clots in my lungs are to numerous to count.
    Have to see the Lung Specialist next week and have another Ehco early Sept to see if right Ventricle is back to normal.
    Specialists said I will feel awful the first 3 month, which I do,the heart and lung are trying to repair themselves, and it will take 1-2years before I will feel REALLY well again.
    PLEASE get more tests done, all the best, will think of you, Monique

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Jessica and Jennifer, it would really be unwise for anyone to do any diagnosis here. Your best chance for understanding what is happening is to see your doctor. If you are not satisfied with your own doctor’s conclusion get another opinion. Just because you are a young woman does not mean that you are immune to heart disease. Go get it checked and be persistent in understanding what the causes of your symptoms are.

  • Jennifer says:

    Hi, I am a bit concerned. I am 38 and lately I have been experiencing tightness in my chest and palpitations. I also have a lack of energy and some occasional dizziness. I do have acid reflux. A few weeks ago I was at work in the OR and was uncomfortable enough with chest and back pain to go get hooked up to a 12 point lead EKG in the ER.The strip and my heart rate were “normal” so the ER doc didn’t take labs or a chest x-ray and sent me back to work. Should I still be concerned. I just felt my heart “flutter”…

  • jessica says:

    Hi my name is Jessica. I’m 29 years old. I’ve been having severe chest pain fir a few days. It started on my left side and now it’s right on the center of my chest. I don’t have any arm pain but it hurts to bend over or to reach up for something. I also cannot make any sudden moves because it hurts. What could this be?

  • Shelley says:

    Dear Father God.

    Lord I lift up Amy to You at this time in her life, that You will heal her of this interruption in her life. In Jesus name amen

  • Amy says:

    I am 39, don’t smoke, drink, do not have diabetes and am not overweight. One week ago I had a heart attack: sudden crushing pain radiating down both arms. I called 911 in 5 minutes and did get taken to the ER. Everyone kept saying I must be having an anxiety attack. My labs proved me right and eventually got a couple stents. No one there could believe it. I thank God that he immediately impressed on my mind what was going on.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Yes Elvira, please consult medical help. That level of pain should not be ignored.

  • Elvira says:

    I am 32 and having really reay bad sharp pains under my arm pit and my breast (left side). I don’t know if I should go to the E.R? The pain has me on the floor.

  • Kim says:

    I’ve been reading these post and wonder what some turn outs have been. A couple days ago either middle of night or early morning I’ve had a pain almost seem when my heart would beat. Now 2 days later my left arm is numb and wrist is throbbing. No other systems. I do have mid asthma and decided to call and get a doc apt. Can you give me any thought to what might be going on?

  • Doris Beck D. Beck says:

    Yes Mary, it’s true that Jesus has the power to heal us! But if we are having a heart attack then we must get medical help asap.

  • MARY says:


  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Hi Angel, there are a lot of people here who have experience of one sort or another with heart attacks but none of us really have the ability to diagnose you here. If you have any questions about the health of your heart it would be good to get in touch with your doctor. That’s where you will get answers. And has been pointed out by many, if you don’t think your doctor is taking your condition seriously make sure you get other professional opinions until you are satisfied that you have the best information about your health. Your symptoms could indicate heart problems so yes, I would connect with a doctor as soon as possible.

  • Angel says:

    Hi, my name is Angel. I’ve been under a lot of stress lately and today I had a very bad pain in my chest. It felt like someone was crushing my heart and my chest was very tight. If I moved my arms it was painful. The pain was/is extremely bad and shot through to my upper back up to my right shoulder. It is still very sore and still feels very tight. And i feel winded. I’m 25 is it possible I could have a heart attack….?

  • Nina says:

    Hi Renee,
    I read your comment and thought it had been me that wrote it. I have just left hospital and now recovering at home. How long was it until you could get your life back, I mean with exercising and horse riding? Thank you Nina

  • Katiet says:

    Hi everyone. It is so important that young woman suffering from any symptoms are fully assessed to rule out a heart attack. I am an emergency nurse who at 33 years of age had a heart attack and needed 2 stents a that time and a further stent after. Only for my medical training I was going to be discharged, having looked at my heart monitor and it was showing my heart rate was 40 at rest and normally mine would be twice that I asked questions what was going on. It shouldn’t be that slow with the pain I was in. I had central chest pain going into my arm and felt as if someone had their hands around my neck. So important that we make the doctors fully assess us as woman are not exempt from having heart attacks. Never waste time as Renee says get an ambulance.

  • Doris Beck D. Beck says:

    Wow Angela that’s a good reminder for younger women to encourage them to ask the ER physicians to be sure and check their hearts when they go into ER complaining of chest pain. We never know what is actually happening in our body regardless of our age.

  • angela says:

    I went to the ER on Dec 27 2012 the day before my 25th birthday, complaining of chest pain and pain below my breast. They told me indigestion, never even checking my heart. 3 months later I had a massive heart attack. They had to place a stent. Please make sure if you have any symptoms like that tell them to check your heart. If I waited any longer they told me I would have died, people as young as 21 have had a heart attack, its not uncommon, they still don’t know why it happened. Please please don’t wait check it out asap

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Suman, I am not a doctor but experiencing pain in the body is not good…it means that something is wrong and you should seek medical help as soon as possible. You may want to go to your local emergency room and have them check you out. Also, you should make an appointment with your doctor to find out how to treat your heart disease.

  • suman says:

    i am suffrng from hrt disera in 4 years what can i do. i have too much pain and all same symptms

  • Sharon says:

    thank you good signs to know

  • Gabrielle says:

    Hi Ladies,

    I am 27 and was diagnosed with heart failure during my last pregnancy. The disease is very serious and even though a person may be active and healthy, the disease can attack anyone. Let me make a note here: the best treatment for heart failure is preventive medicine! I have 3 children (2 year old twins and 6 month old baby), and I simply have not had the time to focus on myself getting back into shape. I constantly blame myself that it is because I am overweight that I have the condition (I need to lost 40 lbs), however, I know women who were 150 lbs overweight who have had normal pregnancies and no heart conditions. Try to keep your stress levels down and make time for exercise and eat clean foods. I think that there simply is not enough research for this condition and it is so prevalent in the United States and we seem to do nothing to change what is causing so many cases of heart disease. I honestly believes it has to do with the additives and chemicals in the foods and drinks we consume. I do not think that the FDA does its job in regulating appropriate additives and chemicals in foods. Aspartame, for example, is illegal in most countries, yet we put it in all of our diet drinks! Studies have shown that it causes brain tumors. Just something to think about. We have to be responsible and take care of ourselves by eating right and allowing time to exercise and de-stress. I am a woman of faith and I believe with personal changes and God’s healing abilities, I will recover from this condition and be able to return to work at some point. Best wishes and prayers to you all who suffer from this disease.

  • Deana says:

    I have been a Type II Diabetic for 21 years, and just turned 40 years old on Oct 3, 2013. I also, had a heart attack at 1am on my 40th Bday. I have been a single mother for 12 yrs with a 12 yr old son, have worked high stressful jobs my entire life being the sole provider.

    After being told I was having a heart attack via Echo-cardiogram, the doctors found that one of the two arteries leading into my Aorta had a large hole in it and it was leaking blood. An emergency Heart Catherization was done via my right arm. The doctors said it was too dangerous to put a stint in because of the location of the hole as during a Stint procedure (they have to enter your artery with a small wire to try and repair it) however, they were very afraid the wire would only make the hole larger and tear it more so they decided to keep me in the Cardiac Intensive Care unit at Univ of Va for 6 days, under heavy sedation to try and heal the artery on it’s own.

    I am now on day two of being discharged from the ICU and still having chest pains but not as severe. I am also on 10 units of insulin 1x daily, and 4 diff heart meds and a heart monitor. Am scared to death but realize I need to make a change in every possible aspect of my life to live healthier for my son. Any help or suggestions of websites to read, books, audio, anything….please let me know. Thank you!

  • Divya says:

    The quality of the racing is good.
    Duration of recording is 23:50 HRS
    Maximum heart rate is 135 BPM
    Minimum heart rate is 44 BPM
    Sinus Arrhthmia seen
    Occasional Supraventricular Ectopics seen
    Episodes of Ectopic Atrial Rhythm seen

    My test report back in June 2013. I am 20.
    I still haven’t consulted any doctor with these reports due to some reasons.
    But now I think I should. Is there a probability that I might have some problem?

  • Jody says:

    Angela, you may want to tell your doctor to check out peripartum cardiomyopathy, which can be brought on by pregnancy. Many doctors miss it because they are unaware of it, but the incidence is about 1 in 5000 pregnancies. At least that is what it was when I was diagnosed 10 years ago.

  • Nancy says:

    Hello Angela,

    I’m glad that you’re being proactive and going to yoyr Dr. I read your symptoms and I too suffer the same symptoms. I’ve been having those same symptoms for the past two years, it sounds like you have digestive problems. I’ve been diagnose with GERD and gastritis. You should ask your promary doctor to refer you to a specialist. It can be many things from gluten intolerance to an ulcer.

    I posted my story here before, but I had a heart attack two years ago at the age of 25. Then almost a year later I started having stomach problems. I would go to the ER almost every other week because I was so paranoid that I might be having another heart attach, but thankfully I wasn’t. I just had a bad case of GERD and gastritis.

    Gerd and gastritis cause nausea and back pain, you can even get a bit of chest pain.


  • Hilary says:

    Angela, everything you described that you are feeling is exactly what I also have been experiencing. I also noticed since I have had my son…16 months ago that my heartburn has become much more painful and intense, and I feel it in my back on my right side. I also have nausea and terrible stomach pains. I am 29, mother of 2, physically active and about the same size as you, I’m just a bit taller. I have been to the er a few times because the pain was so bad but never thought about a heart attack and neither did the doctor. Its been frustrating not knowing what’s going on and not finding relief. I had never been to the er until this year and I don’t want to go back. I hope you can find some answers.

  • Jamie Jamie says:

    Angela, you should never feel foolish going to your doctor. Even if your symptoms are not heart related they are signs that something is not right and it is a good idea to have you doctor help you find some answers.

  • Gabrielle says:

    My mother who’s regularly active, in her early forties often have a feeling of tiredness in her chest, shortness of breath, constantly having headaches and stomach dizziness. Do you think she might be having a heart failure condition? I’m really worried, but she excercise everday and eats healthily. Never smokes and certainly do not drink. She weight about 50kg

  • Angela says:

    I don’t have any risk factors, but have had spells of bone tiredness and feeling dizzy since having my son 17 months ago- I’m 34 next month and have been suffering from the weirdest (and painful) heartburn pains ever- like someone squeezing my diaphragm and between my breastbone. I always have pain between the shoulders- that my stress holder, typically on the right side. The heartburn pains come and go- they’re not constant, but did wake me up this morning at 4 am. I just feel like I’d look like a loon going to my doctor asking if it might be a heart attack. I also have typically low blood pressure, I’m 5’0″, and 113 pounds. My cholesterol and iron levels were checked last month and was normal.

  • Michael Jantzen Michael Jantzen says:

    Hello Renee,

    Sometimes life just doesn’t make sense, and it certainly didn’t make sense for you when your heart attack happened. I hope you bounce back quickly both emotionally and physically so you can get back up on a horse and laugh and play with your children. I’m not sure if you’re aware, but this is a Christian site, and we have people ready to pray for you if you’d like. Just click here: Thank you for sharing your story and for showing concern to readers who might experience a similar health crisis. Take care.

  • renee says:

    At just 30 and 1month of age, I just suffered a heart attack. Started as a crushing pain in the centre of my chest and down my left arm. Ibefore this ihad been attending the gym three times a week, an active horse rider and mother of two young children. Not overweight and probably the fittest in my life. Totally shocked by the outcome but I never waisted any time just called an ambulance right away. Great doctors and a flight to Melbourne, I was controlled very well. There seems to be no explanation for it all. So if you suffer any of the symptoms don’t waste time, call the ambulance, it made all the difference to me…

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Linda, Have you ever experienced these types of symptoms before? It would be wise for you to have your doctor look you over and run a few test. If it occurs again you may want to call 911 and have them take you to your local ER.

  • Barbara Alpert Barbara Alpert says:

    Hi Jodi, Praise God that you went to the ER and they found out about your blockage. Heart disease, as you know it, is a vey serious condition. I pray that you follow your doctors recomendations in taking good care of your entire body. God has blessed you with three children and I am certain He wants you to be as healthy as possible in raising them and to set a good example for them, too. It’s a blessing that you had no heart damage…God was really watching over you! May He heal your heart and keep you well for many more years as you aim to take good care of the vessel He has given you.