Symptoms of a heart attack can include radiating pain down the arm and tightness in the chest. While these may be universally recognized symptoms of heart attacks for men, new studies have shown such symptoms are not necessarily what women can expect if they're having a heart attack.

Research indicates women may experience symptoms quite different from men when it comes to heart attacks. Dismissing the symptoms of a heart attack can delay life-saving actions. It is critical for women to recognize warning signs. Even when signs are subtle, the results can be deadly.

The American Heart Association notes that a heart attack occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen-rich blood to the heart is slowed down or cut off. Arteries that supply blood flow to the heart may gradually become blocked by cholesterol, fat, and plaque. The National Institutes of Health indicate women often experience new or unusual physical symptoms as early as a month before experiencing a heart attack.

Women's symptoms may not be as predictable as men's, but there are still some signs to consider:

sweating,

pressure in the chest and back that may feel like a rope being tightened around the body,

nausea,

pain in the back, neck, jaw or stomach,

shortness of breath without having exerted yourself,

lightheadedness,

chest pain may be present, but fewer than 30 percent of women actually experience any pain in their chest,

unusual fatigue,

indigestion, and/or

sleep disturbances.

If a woman experiences any of the above symptoms and suspects a heart attack, it is better to be safe than sorry. First, call 9-1-1 and make sure to follow the operator's instructions. Chew and swallow an aspirin (325 mg) if you have one available. Aspirin will prevent platelets in the blood from clotting and further blocking up an affected artery. This prevents any other heart muscle cells from dying from a clot obstruction.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, do not drive yourself to the hospital. Wait for paramedics or have someone else drive if you have no other choice. Lie down and try to remain as calm as possible until emergency responders arrive. Be somewhere safe in case you lose consciousness and have the door unlocked so that EMTs can get inside your home should you lose consciousness.

One of the best ways to remain healthy with regard to a heart attack is to take certain preventative measures to reduce your risk of heart attack. Quitting smoking, walking 30 minutes per day and choosing foods that are lower in fat and dietary cholesterol can help prevent heart attacks.