In a recent segment on the “Today” show, Chantrise Holliman, a mother, wife and heart health educator based in Georgia, shared the story of her heart attack and what seemed like the fairly benign symptoms that accompanied it.
Holliman experienced nausea, vomiting and mild chest pressure. The first two symptoms ― which aren’t commonly associated with heart attacks ― led her to believe the sensations had more to do with her dinner the night before than a serious medical concern.
Like Holliman, many people don’t know that stomach symptoms can, indeed, be signs of a heart attack. While not the most common warning sign (chest pain is most reported), nausea is also not uncommon during a cardiac event, according to Dr. Sean Heffron, a cardiologist at NYU Langone Health.
It “tends to depend somewhat on which blood vessel in the heart is affected,” Heffron explained. Additionally, nausea is more commonly seen in women, Heffron said, as is vomiting.
Other heart attack signs in women include jaw pain, neck pain, a dull feeling of chest discomfort, upper abdomen pain, back pain and excessive tiredness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It’s so important to hear stories like this, because many women think it has to be like, ‘I’m clutching my chest and falling to the ground like you see in the movies,’ and it can be much more subtle,” Dr. Tara Narula, a cardiologist and NBC News medical contributor, told “Today.”
Heart attacks can look very different in women than in men, which means that sufferers and doctors alike sometimes dismiss them. But it’s important to recognize the signs, especially since heart disease “is the leading cause of death for women in this country,” Narula told “Today.” “One woman every 80 seconds dies of cardiovascular disease.”