The signs and symptoms of heart attacks and strokes that every woman needs to know about

The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada is on a mission to close the research gap because not understanding the difference between a man’s and a woman’s heart and brain is proving fatal for women.   Heart disease and stroke remain the leading cause of premature death for women in Canada, claiming the life of a woman in Canada every 17 minutes and women don’t even know it, wrongly presuming other diseases are more dangerous.  While heart attacks can affect everybody, the signs and symptoms are actually lesser known for women which makes it even more important to know about. 

Cardiac surgeon Dr. Donna May Kimmaliardjuk  and Cardiologist Dr. Paula Harvey share the rarely discussed signs and symptoms of a heart attack and stroke that tend to present in women.

Heart attack symptoms for men and women

  • Chest pain/pressure/tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Upper body discomfort, in the neck, jaw, left arm
  • Sweating

Symptoms more common in women

  • Abdominal pain
  • Upper back pressure
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Light-headedness


Think of the acronym "fast": 

F – Face: Is it drooping? 

A – Arms: Can you raise both? 

S – Speech- Is it slurred or jumbled? 

T – Time to call 911 right away

For more information on the symptoms unique to women, and to make a donation, visit The Heart & Stroke Foundation.