Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. This condition has led the charts for decades and is a prominent concern. While both men and women suffer from heart disease equally, it presents differently in each sex. This can mean that heart disease in women goes unnoticed due to the different symptoms they face. We’ll spend some time discussing how women with heart disease experience symptoms and what you can do.
How Heart Disease In Women Differs From Men
One symptom that both men and women share is the presence of discomfort, pressure, or pain in the chest area that persists for longer than a few moments. While this is a symptom shared by men and women, it may not be the most notable symptom in women. Women often describe heart attack pain as a sort of tightness or pressure. It’s even possible to experience a heart attack without any evidence of chest pain. Women report the following symptoms more commonly than they do chest pain:
- Pain in the arms (one or both)
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Heartburn (indigestion)
- Shortness of breath
- Unusual Fatigue
- Discomfort in the upper belly, shoulder, jaw, neck, or upper back
The issue with these symptoms is that they can be vague and hard to distinguish as being caused by heart disease. They’re a far cry from the chest pain that many often report as feeling crushing when a heart attack sets in. Part of the reason women experience symptoms differently is the tendency for blockages to occur in smaller arteries leading to the heart as well as the larger ones. When these blockages are present, it’s referred to as coronary microvascular disease or small vessel heart disease. These differences in symptoms may contribute to heart disease being underreported in women.
Women who are obese, have high cholesterol or have hypertension are at elevated risk for developing heart disease. However, other factors may be larger contributors to women’s heart disease risks. These additional risk factors include:
- Diabetes – Those with diabetes have a higher rate of heart disease than men with the same condition. This condition can also impact how women experience pain, leading to an increased risk of silent heart attacks.
- Emotional Stress & Depression – Women’s hearts have been shown to suffer more during periods of stress and depression than men’s. These conditions can make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended courses of treatment.
- Pregnancy – Gestational diabetes and weight gain can significantly contribute to heart disease risk in the long term.
Speak To Your Women’s Health Provider For Guidance
Recognizing the presence of heart disease symptoms is an important part of ensuring you can take steps to reverse your health condition. Speaking to your women’s health provider will help you identify warning signs and devise a treatment plan. Proper diet and exercise are central to reducing your risks and maintaining a long and healthy life free of heart disease. Schedule your consultation today and start taking steps to keep your heart healthy for a lifetime.