Keep an eye on your heart

12 July 2019

Dr Kim Tan, Consultant Cardiologist


Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in Malaysia. Fortunately, women can take steps to protect themselves by being aware of its symptoms and risks that are unique to women, eat a heart-healthy diet and exercise.


Heart attack symptoms in women aren’t always as obvious as the ones for men, such as crushing chest pain or numbness that radiates down one arm. Symptoms can happen to women, though many experience vague or “silent” symptoms that they may miss.

Hence sometimes heart disease is not diagnosed until a woman experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, an arrhythmia, or stroke.
According to, these symptoms may include:

  1. Chest pain or discomfort. Chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom, but some women may experience it differently than men. It may feel like a squeezing or fullness, and the pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side.
  2. Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw. This type of pain is more common in women than in men. It may confuse women who expect their pain to be focused on their chest and left arm, not their back or jaw. The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you’re asleep, it may wake you up. Any unexplained or abnormal symptoms in any part of your body above your waist should always be reported to a doctor.
  3. Stomach pain. Sometimes people mistake stomach pain that signals a heart attack with heartburn, the flu, or a stomach ulcer. Other times, women experience severe abdominal pressure that feels like an elephant sitting on your stomach.
  4. Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. If you’re having trouble breathing for no apparent reason, you could be having a heart attack, especially if you’re also having one or more other symptoms. A classic example is feeling completely out of breath as if you’ve run a marathon, but you have not in actual fact.
  5. Sweating. Breaking out in a nervous, cold sweat is common among women who are having a heart attack. It will feel more like stress-related sweating than perspiration from exercising or spending time outside in the heat.
  6. Fatigue. Some women who have heart attacks feel extremely tired, even if they’ve been sitting still for a while or haven’t moved much. Patients often complain of tiredness in the chest and difficulty in doing simple activities such as walking to the bathroom.