Heart disease currently accounts for 25% of female deaths in the US. That makes heart disease the number one killer of women in the nation. Women who are overweight or obese, lack a nutritional diet and physical activity, drink excessively, or suffer from diabetes are most at risk. Having high blood pressure or cholesterol and smoking are also key risk factors.
Out of all of the women who die from heart disease, 64% of them had no reported previous symptoms. In some cases, there are no symptoms, but in others, women simply don’t know what the signs are. Knowing the symptoms of heart disease in women could someday save your life or the life of someone you know. Here are the signs and symptoms to watch out for:
Chest pain. Chest pain and discomfort are the most common reported symptoms of a heart attack. The pain can vary, from feeling pressure on your chest, or feeling like you’re being squeezed, or the sensation of fullness. The pain can be located anywhere on the chest area. The pain will be distinctly different from the feeling of heart burn and will feel extremely uncomfortable, sometimes making moving or speaking difficult. If you experience this kind of pain, seek medical attention or help immediately.
Heart palpitations. Heart palpitations can feel like a fluttering or thumping feeling in the chest, or can feel like your heart is skipping beats. This can be a symptom of an arrhythmia, which is an irregularity of the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. An arrhythmia can be another sign of heart disease or risk of heart attack.
Fatigue. Feeling tired or fatigued can account for a wide variety of health problems, but extreme and consistent fatigue is a sign of an unhealthy heart. If you suffer from fatigue that leaves you feeling difficulty to do simple tasks like use the restroom, or if you continue to feel tired even after excessive rest, seek medical attention.
Shortness of breath. If you suddenly feel short of breath or have a difficult time breathing, you could be having a heart attack. It might feel as if you have a weight on your chest keeping you from breathing, or as if you’ve just run a marathon and can’t catch your breath.
Sweating. Breaking out in a cold sweat can also be a sign of heart disease. If the sweating feels more like it’s being caused by sweat and is not induced by exercise or hot temperatures, it may be cause for concern. However, this can also a result of hot flashes in menopausal or pre-menopausal women.
Tightness or pain in the back, neck, and jaw. Pain in these areas is more likely to be a symptom in women than men with heart disease. The pain may come on suddenly or intensify gradually. These symptoms are also common signs of muscle strain, but to be safe, contact your doctor if you experience these symptoms.
Stomach pain. Stomach pain can be mistaken as a number of different digestive problems or heart burn. However, if you experience stomach pain in addition to any of these other symptoms, you may want to consider the possibility of heart disease.
Now that you’re familiar with the symptoms of heart disease in women, how can you reduce your risk? You can start by quitting smoking, if you’re a smoker, and reducing your alcohol intake. Reducing the amount of meat and animal products like dairy in your diet can also help reduce your risk as these foods contribute to high cholesterol and blood pressure. Practice light cardio exercise at least three times a week (start by taking walks outside or using a treadmill). Take care of your mental health if you feel like stress is taking a toll on your health. Take time out of your day to unwind and talk to your doctor about way to reduce stress in your life. Taking good care of your mind and body, and knowing the signs of heart disease can ultimately help to prevent a heart attack or save your life if you are affected.
* “Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet,” www.cdc.gov
* “6 Symptoms of Women’s Heart Attacks,” www.webmd.com
* “What are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease?,” www.nhlbi.nih.gov
* “Heart Disease In Women,” www.mayoclinic.org