Tired? It Could Be Your Heart

Fatigue can signal a heart attack. (Image credit: Silvia Jansen/Getty Images)

All right, I'm going to give you a list of symptoms, and you tell me what you think they mean. Ready?

  • Crushing chest pain that then shoots down your arm
  • A racing heart
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath

Did you think heart attack? I hope so. A lot of work has gone into publicizing these symptoms. They are the classic signs of a heart attack … in men. That's right, in men.

Unfortunately, the more subtle signals that a heart attack is happening, particularly in women, are less well-known. That is part of the reason why women frequently experience a delay in getting diagnosed and treated. This can have deadly consequences.

Although many people think of heart disease as a man's disease, it is the leading cause of death in women as well. It just tends to occur at an older age. During heart health month, it's a great time to learn the subtler symptoms of a heart attack and what to do if you are experiencing them.

Just like in men, the No. 1 symptom is still chest pain, but look for the new onset of these symptoms as well:

  • Unusual fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion
  • Pain in the neck, back, or jaw

If you, or someone you know is experiencing some of these symptoms, don't ignore them. Call 911 and say, "I think I may be having a heart attack." Then crush up an aspirin and swallow it, sit down and wait.

When you get to the hospital, demand a thorough evaluation. Women often experience delays in getting evaluated once they get to the hospital, and time really matters. It's hoped that in the end, the doctors will tell you you're just fine. However, if you are having a heart attack, you might just have saved your own life.

Dr. Richard Besser is ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

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