Every 40 seconds, someone gets hit with a heart attack, and it stands as the leading cause of death for both men and women. Heart attacks don't discriminate, which is why it is crucial to understand how the signs might vary between the genders.

Heart attacks occur when the blood flow to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely due to a buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other substances.

"Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the United States. But that's where the similarities end. Men and women present with different symptoms," Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for Prevention for the American Heart Association said.

Identifying the signs and seeking prompt medical attention is crucial for minimizing damage and improving the chances of a full recovery from heart attacks.

Common symptoms of heart attacks in men include squeezing chest pain or chest pressure, pain in the jaw, neck, or back, nausea or vomiting, and shortness of breath.

Many women may have heart attacks without having chest pain. They may sometimes describe the pain as pressure or tightness. They are more likely to report pain in the neck, back, shoulders, or jaw, shortness of breath, pain in arms, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness. They may also experience certain signs such as stomach pain, indigestion, heartburn, and extreme fatigue even weeks before the heart attack.

A 2003 study suggests that around 80% of women who get heart attacks experience one symptom, at least four weeks before their heart attack. However, experts say women are more likely to dismiss the signs of heart attacks mistaking them for non-life-threatening conditions that are not related to the heart, such as acid reflux, flu, stress, and anxiety.

While angina or chest pain is a common and early sign of a heart attack, it can also be associated with conditions like pancreatitis, pneumonia, or panic attacks. It's important to know that only 20% of cases presenting with chest pain are identified as heart attacks.

The onset of chest pain or angina during a heart attack is typically abrupt and persistent. However, it can be difficult to tell if chest pain is related to heart disease or caused by something else. It is also possible that the intensity of pain may be different for each individual, for some people it may be only minor chest discomfort while for others it could be excruciating pain. So, it is advisable to seek immediate medical help if a person has new or unexplained chest pain, particularly when it is accompanied by other signs.