What are the symptoms of a heart attack for women? How do you know?

I am 45 and a woman. I have been having pain in my shoulders and mid back, trouble breathing, and dizziness. I have been using my inhaler every 2 hours and have been taking 800mgs of motrin for the pain and a gas X and previcid for my stomach. The breathing problems seems better but I am still in some pain. My husband, a nurse, says I am not presenting the symptoms of a heart attack and thinks it is more upper respiratory related. I have also had sore shoulders for a while with limited movement that my doctor thinks is my rotator cuff. Do you think I should ride it out on pain meds and albutoral or go to the emergency room? I'm not in distress as much as I was. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Written By Evie Neumann

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • Scout January 16, 2009, 12:12 am

    Very good question. Women present much differently than men do when it comes to your hearts. Atypical is the typical in women. I've diagnosed heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) time and time again in women who only have shortness of breath, nausea, weakness, shoulder pain (rotator cuff!), etc.
    The thing I hate hearing most from my patients is that they are having 'gas' pain. So many times it turns out to be cardiac.
    When you go to the emergency room they will do an ekg, chest xray, and cardiac enzymes (heart labs), etc. However, this alone does not rule out a heart attack. They will most likely keep you overnight to do atleast two more ekg's and heart labs seperated by six hours and after you 'rule out' they'll probably do stress testing.
    Other life threatening conditions such as pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in your lungs), etc can present in a similar fashion.
    It may be nothing, but please don't make the mistake of blowing this off. Go straight to the hospital and check it out. I don't want to say what I do for a living on this forum, but please believe me you need to go get this checked out.