Heart Disease 101: Warning Signs for Women

February 3, 2017

The number one killer of men and women in the U.S., you may think that gender doesn’t matter when it comes to heart disease. But it does. According to the American Heart Association, in the past 30 years, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. This could in part be due to the less obvious signs and symptoms women sometimes experience and the fact that only one in five women believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat.

Before we talk differences, it is important to know the primary signs and symptoms of heart disease, for men and women. They are:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common, and more subtle symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain, sometimes without any obvious chest discomfort.

Particularly alarming is that it isn’t just heavy smokers, stressed out or overweight women who fall victim to heart attack. Otherwise healthy women can also suffer a heart attack. And it’s these women who often write the condition off as something else – the flu or an unusually stressful period in their life – delaying potentially life-saving care.

We to make sure all of the women in our community not only know what to watch for, but also what their level of risk is. Talk to your primary care physician about your risk factors and preventive care options that are right for you.