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
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
Women who experience any of these symptoms should seek medical help immediately.
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:
Women with diabetes have a greater risk of heart disease than men with diabetes.
Women who smoke are at a greater risk of heart disease than men who smoke.
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.
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.
Exercising for 30 minutes every day strengthens the heart, lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and dilates arteries.
Chronic stress increases your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. Relaxation techniques, exercise, sleep, and meditation can relieve stress.
The chance of having a heart attack doubles if you regularly smoke or are exposed to cigarette smoke.
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.