Heart disease is known to affect women at a higher rate than men. According to the Texas Heart Institute, heart disease accounts for nearly 40% of all deaths in women living in the United States. Part of the problem is the fact that the symptoms of heart disease in women tend to be more mild and difficult to recognize, leaving many women to postpone a doctor’s visit until it is already too late. By understanding all of the symptoms of heart disease, you can better protect yourself in the future.
Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women
The most common symptom of heart disease is chest pain. Unfortunately, in women, the chest pain is often quite mild and easy to disregard. It tends to be characterized as a tightness or pressure in the chest. Sometimes women will experience a heart attack with no accompanied chest pain, which makes early diagnosis particularly difficult to recognize. In addition to chest pain, some important signs to watch for are discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, abdominal, or upper back.
Experiencing shortness of breath, pain in your right arm, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, or excessive sweating are some of the symptoms of heart disease. If you think you are experiencing these symptoms, go to the hospital right away. Women tend to ignore these symptoms, thinking they are too subtle to be anything severe. However, ignoring the symptoms is the precise reason so many women die of heart attacks.
Risk Factors for Women
Obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Also, women with diabetes are at a significantly increased risk for heart attack. According to the Mayo Clinic, smoking will considerably increase risk of heart attacks in women, as will mental illnesses such as depression. This is primarily due to the fact that people struggling with depression tend to make less healthy choices in terms of diet and exercise. Low levels of estrogen, such as those experienced by women after menopause, have been linked to increased risk of heart disease as well.
While heart disease is a scary concept, there are plenty of things you can do to lower your risk. Living a healthy lifestyle, free of drugs, alcohol and cigarettes will substantially lower your risk. Furthermore, a healthy diet coupled with a regular exercise regime can keep your heart healthy and strong. The most important thing is to always pay attention to your body and note any potential symptoms, as early diagnosis of heart disease could save your life.
Mayo Clinic: Diseases and Conditions: Heart Disease in Women: Understand Symptoms and Risk Factors
Texas Heart Institute: Heart Information Center: Women and Heart Disease