Heart Disease in Women

Woman Smiling

For years, heart disease was commonly thought to affect men more frequently than women. Today, however, the condition is recognized as the nation’s leading cause of death for women - claiming responsibility for approximately one in every five female deaths in the United States. Even so, only around 13 percent of women recognize heart disease as the single greatest threat to their health, according to a survey published by the American Heart Association.

While women’s and men’s hearts are nearly identical in appearance, there are slight differences in how they function. These differences mean women with heart disease experience a distinct set of signs and symptoms that differ from those in men.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

Pain, discomfort or pressure in the chest is often the most common symptom of a heart attack, yet some women have heart attacks without experiencing chest pain or if they do have chest pain, they do not take immediate action. Because women often delay treatment, they typically have poor outcomes.

Women are more likely than men to have symptoms such as: 

  • shortness of breath
  • neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pressure
  • pain in the arms
  • sweating
  • unusual fatigue
  • lightheadedness
  • dizziness.

These symptoms are often subtle and may occur while resting.

It is crucial to become familiar with these telltale signs and to take note of subtle changes in the way your body feels. Call your doctor right away if you feel any unusual symptoms.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women

Several risk factors for heart disease in women such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity are similar to risk factors in men. Other risk factors that often play a bigger role in heart disease in women include, diabetes, mental health issues or depression, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, menopause, chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy or complications of pregnancy. Research indicates that conditions specific to women during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia are now considered a risk factor for developing heart disease later in life.

Women can reduce their risk of developing heart disease by:

  • Quitting smoking or continuing to not smoke
  • Exercising regularly, for 150 to 300 minutes each week
  • Losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Controlling hypertension and diabetes mellitus.
  • Eating a balanced diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low in added sugars, salts and saturated or trans fat

When should you see a cardiologist?

There are a variety of reasons you should see a cardiologist. If you have any risk factors for heart disease or have a family history of heart problems, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at one of The Heart Center of Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s locations.

The Heart Center at NGMC has expert cardiologists and advanced practice providers who are specially trained to recognize the slight differences in symptoms to accurately diagnose and treat heart disease in women. We offer the latest treatments and most advanced technology to help you get back to health quickly.

Schedule your appointment today by calling 770-534-2020 or visiting www.heartngmc.org/myappointment.