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Women experience heart disease differently than men. Learn to identify the symptoms specific to women and make simple changes in your life.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men AND women in the United States. Though heart disease is usually associated with men, more than 1/3 of women’s deaths are attributed to heart disease every year.

 

Women’s symptoms ≠ men’s symptoms

It’s not widely know that women experience very different heart attack symptoms than men– and that could be very dangerous. Sometimes women will go to the emergency room after heart damage has already happened because they didn’t recognize the symptoms. It is important to understand the symptoms so that you can quickly and correctly identify them as a heart attack.

Women’s symptoms are often subtle. Not many women experience the typical shooting chest pain associated with heart attacks. Sometimes, women will have a heart attack without ever experiencing chest pain. Instead of shooting chest pain, women have a wide range of symptoms.

Heart attack symptoms in women include:

  • Chest pain (Usually described as a tightness in the chest)
  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Cold sweats
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Unexplained Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

Women who experience any of these symptoms should seek medical help immediately.

 

Close up on pink heart in hand of woman. Image of Valentines day

Women’s risk factors

Many risk factors are equal across both genders, but there are some that are particularly harmful to women’s heart health. Women should take care to understand these risks:

Diabetes

Women with diabetes have a greater risk of heart disease than men with diabetes.

Smoking

Women who smoke are at a greater risk of heart disease than men who smoke.

Menopause

Low estrogen levels increase the risk for developing coronary microvascular disease.

Broken Heart Syndrome

Often caused by extreme stress, this condition results in temporary disruptions in the heart’s pumping and is most common in postmenopausal women.

Certain cancer treatments

Breast cancer treatments may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

 

Smiling hipster woman doing a heart in post-it in office

Women’s risk reducers

Women can reduce the risk of heart disease by changing a few of their daily habits:

Eat healthy foods

A heart-healthy diet includes whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, healthy fats, and fish.

Exercise

Exercising for 30 minutes every day strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and dilates arteries.

Reduce stress

Chronic stress increases your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Relaxation techniques, exercise, sleep, and meditation can relieve stress.

Quit smoking

The chance of having a heart attack doubles if you regularly smoke or are exposed to cigarette smoke.

Drink responsibly

Studies about drinking and heart health are conflicting. Some say that moderate drinking (1 glass a day) can have a positive effect on your heart, while others say that alcohol has negative effects on blood pressure, blood sugar, and other heart-related factors.

 

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