What Are The Symptoms Of Heart Disease For Women
There tends to be a common misconception when it comes to the symptoms associated with heart disease in women. These symptoms can vary from those in men, so its important that women take the steps to understand the symptoms unique to them.
Only one in three women will experience typical heart attack symptoms such as pain in the centre of the chest. This can be severe, but can alternatively be described as uncomfortable pressure, squeezing or fullness which can last for a few minutes, go away, and then comes back.
Instead, many women suffer from less common warning signs such as:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusual feelings of fatigue
- Heart palpitations
While these symptoms can be more subtle than the typical crushing chest pain, its important to take them seriously. Another difference to be aware of is the type of chest pain women may experience, as it tends to be described as pressure or tightness.
Womens heart attack symptoms may occur more often when they are asleep or resting and can even be triggered by stress. If you experience any of these symptoms or think you are having a heart attack, immediately call an ambulance.
Know Your Risk: Book A Heart Health Check
Do you know what your risk of having a heart attack or stroke is? 1.4 million Australians have a high chance of having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years, but many are unaware of this risk.
The main risk factors affecting both men and women include:
- high blood pressure
- lack of physical activity
- being above a healthy weight
- unhealthy diet, including eating foods with saturated fats or added salt and low fruit and vegetable intake
- excessive alcohol consumption
- depression and social isolation
You should also be aware of atrial fibrillation, which is associated with one in four strokes. Atrial fibrillation causes an irregular heartbeat. This can allow blood clots to form in the heart which can then break away from the heart wall and travel to the brain, where it may cause a stroke. To find out if you have atrial fibrillation or if you experience symptoms such as palpitations, weakness, faintness or breathlessness, see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Your doctor will advise you on how best to manage your atrial fibrillation.
Anyone 45 years and over or 30 years and over for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should have a regular heart health check with their doctor. Heart health checks can identify issues and determine your risk factor by checking your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Your GP can support you to make positive changes to lower this risk.
What To Do If You Think Youre Having A Heart Attack
If you think youre having a heart attack or heart attack symptoms, call for emergency medical help. Dont ignore or delay it, as every minute counts. Treating a heart attack early can limit or prevent damage to your heart.
At the hospital, speak up for yourself or bring someone who can advocate for you. Tell the doctor you are concerned about your heart. Describe your symptoms, how long youve had them, and your medical history.
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Heart Attack Symptoms Go Beyond Chest Pain
Portrayals in movies and TV shows often make heart attacks look like sudden, crushing chest pain. While chest discomfort, pressure, or pain are common symptoms of heart attack, they arent the only ones.
Women are more likely than men to have more subtle heart attack symptoms that may be unrelated to the chest. You could be having a heart attack if you experience pain in your:
Symptoms can be vague, and many women brush them off because theyre not widely known as signs of a heart attack. Learning to recognize the more subtle symptoms can help you identify a cardiac event sooner before permanent damage occurs.
The Four Silent Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
In addition to extreme fatigue, here are the most common symptoms of heart attacks in women, according to the American Heart Association, so you know what to look for. Note that you may not have all of them:
All of these signs are “silent,” in the sense that they are easy to ignore especially if you dont want to believe youre having a heart attack. Another reason people think of them as silent signs of a heart attack is that individually, these symptoms could all be attributed to other conditions. The chest pain, in particular, may not be the dramatic, elephant-on-my-chest stereotypical male heart attack pain, says Lichtman.
And the sheer number of these ambiguous symptoms may be one of the reasons many women dont know theyre having a heart attack, according to Lichtmans research there are other things bothering them, so they blow off the chest pain or pressure symptom, says Lichtman.
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Do Women Have As Many Heart Attacks As Men
Coronary heart disease kills more than twice as many women as breast cancer in the UK every year, and it was the single biggest killer of women worldwide in 2019. Despite this, its often considered a mans disease.There are more than 800,000 women in the UK living with CHD, which is the main cause of heart attacks.
Each year more than 30,000 women are admitted to hospital in the UK due to a heart attack.
What Can I Do To Recover After A Heart Attack
Take our quiz to see how much you know about cardiac rehabilitation.
If youve had a heart attack, your heart may be damaged. This could affect your hearts rhythm and its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body. You may also be at risk for another heart attack or conditions such as stroke, kidney disorders, and peripheral arterial disease .
You can lower your chances of having future health problems following a heart attack with these steps:
- Physical activityTalk with your health care team about the things you do each day in your life and work. Your doctor may want you to limit work, travel, or sexual activity for some time after a heart attack.
- Lifestyle changesEating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, quitting smoking, and managing stressin addition to taking prescribed medicinescan help improve your heart health and quality of life. Ask your health care team about attending a program called cardiac rehabilitation to help you make these lifestyle changes.
- Cardiac rehabilitationCardiac rehabilitation is an important program for anyone recovering from a heart attack, heart failure, or other heart problem that required surgery or medical care. Cardiac rehab is a supervised program that includes
- Physical activity
- Education about healthy living, including healthy eating, taking medicine as prescribed, and ways to help you quit smoking
- Counseling to find ways to relieve stress and improve mental health
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Heart Attack Symptoms In Women
If you have any of these signs, call 911 and get to a hospital right away.
A Different Kind Of Heart Attack
If you have mild symptoms, they may be caused by a silent heart attack. These heart attacks are less likely to cause symptoms. Often, you may not know youve had one until days or even weeks later.
Theyre more common in women, particularly women under 65.
To identify whether youve had one, your doctor may perform an electrocardiogram, also called an EKG or ECG. This non-invasive test uses small sensors attached to your chest and arms to record your hearts electrical activity.
If testing does detect a silent heart attack, your doctor may suggest treatments like medication or cardiac rehab.
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Symptoms Of A Heart Attack
About every 43 seconds, someone in the US has a heart attack.
The symptoms of a heart attack can vary from person to person. Common symptoms in men and women include:
- Discomfort or pain in the center or left side of your chest. The feeling may last for a few minutes or may go away and return. It can feel like squeezing, pressure, pain, or fullness.
- Pain or discomfort in your jaw, back, or neck
- Pain or discomfort in one or both shoulders or arms
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
- Feeling light-headed, faint, or weak
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
Signs And Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
Heart attack symptoms can vary from person to person but the most common signs of a heart attack are:
- chest pain or discomfort in your chest that suddenly occurs and doesn’t go away. It may feel like pressure, tightness or squeezing
- the pain may spread to your left or right arm or may spread to your neck, jaw, back or stomach
- you may also feel sick, sweaty, light-headed or short of breath.
Other less common symptoms include:
- a sudden feeling of anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack
- excessive coughing or wheezing
If you think you’re having a heart attack, call 999 for an ambulance immediately.
Women may be less likely to seek medical attention and treatment quickly, despite the warning signs. This can dramatically reduce your chance of survival. Rapid treatment is essential, and the aim is to restore blood flow to the affected part of the heart muscle as soon as possible. This helps to limit the amount of damage to the heart.
- Learn more about heart attack symptoms.
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Other Potential Heart Attack Signs
Heart attack signs look different for everyone, although there are a few common ones to watch for.
- Neck, jaw, arm, and back pain: Pain radiating to your jaw, back, neck, or arms may signal a heart condition, especially if the origin is hard to pinpoint. For example, you might feel pain, but no specific muscle or joint aches. If the discomfort begins or worsens when you are exerting yourself, and then stops when you quit exercising, you should also get it checked out.
- Unexpected sweating: During menopause, many women experience hot flashes. However, sudden or excessive sweating associated with other symptoms such as nausea or chest pressure can also be a heart attack sign. Stress sweat when there is no real cause for stress, or sweating or shortness of breath accompanied by other symptoms, such as chest pain or fatigue, can be cause for concern.
- Chest pain: Chest pain/pressure is a very common heart attack sign, but can feel different than you might think. We need to dig deeper into the symptom of chest pain for both men and women as it relates to heart attacks, Dr. Cho says. It is seldom as dramatic as you might think, and it can feel like pressure or heart burn that comes on over time.
Why Are Men And Women Different
Womens experience of heart attacks and heart disease differ from men because:
- Womens symptoms of heart disease can arise at a much later stage in the illness than men
- Womens symptoms can be milder, vague or unusual
- Some tests used to diagnose heart disease are less accurate in women than in men
- In the event of a heart attack, women are also less likely than men to seek help quickly
- There is also less awareness of the risk and different warning signs of heart attack and heart disease in females.
Because heart disease in women often goes undetected which can delay treatment, the damage caused can be more advanced and outcomes can be poorer than for men.
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Understand Your Risk Of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women and men. But both heart attacks and heart disease can appear differently in women than in men. This disparity means that women are more likely to have undiagnosed heart conditions, and they may not even know when theyre at risk for heart attack.
If youre a woman, its important to educate yourself about your heart health. Risk factors that increase your chances of heart disease and heart attack include:
Heart disease is common, but its preventable in many cases. Our team is dedicated to helping you strengthen your heart and live your healthiest life.
We partner with you, evaluating your medical history, family history, and current condition to propose a heart-healthy plan thats right for you. Managing pre-existing conditions and making a range of healthy lifestyle choices can make a big difference for your heart and help reduce your risk of heart attack.
Trust your heart health to our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute. To learn more about the risks of heart disease and how to spot a heart attack, book an appointment at one of our offices in Newark, Secaucus, or Paramus, New Jersey. Use the online scheduler or give us a call.
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Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms Can Differ From Men’s
Heart attack symptoms in women can be a bit different from those in men. Women tend to ignore the symptoms because they can be quite subtle.
While chest pain is the most common sign of heart attack for both men and women, some women just have a feeling of tightness, pressure or discomfort in their chest. So, if youre a woman, how do you know if you are having a heart attack?
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What Exactly Is A Heart Attack
A heart attack is anytime your heart doesnt receive enough blood to stay healthy, says Karol Watson, M.D., Professor of Medicine/Cardiology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. The heart is a muscle, and just like any muscle, requires a constant blood supply to stay healthy and strong, she says. If an area of the heart is deprived of blood for any length of time, it can weaken and die, and when it does, thats a heart attack.
Blood supply to your heart is slowed or stopped if your arteries become blocked with plaque . There can also be blood clotting around the plaque, which makes it hard for the blood to get to your heart. And once an area of the heart dies, says Dr. Watson, it cannot come back .
Heart Disease Is The Leading Cause Of Death For Women In Australia And Globally
Heart disease includes any condition that affects the normal functioning of the heart, and includes coronary artery disease that causes heart attacks, arrhythmias, heart failure and heart valve problems.
It is too often perceived as a common illness among middle-aged men, but in fact, the risk of heart problems increases significantly once women reach menopause. In fact, there are some heart diseases, such as SCAD and FMD, which affect women more than they do men.
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What Are The Common Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
Here are the key symptoms for women:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Jaw or neck pain
- A general sense of discomfort
Many of these symptoms are not typically associated with heart attacks, so if youre not aware of them, it can be easy for them to go unnoticed or at least not consider them heart attack symptoms when youre experiencing them. Many of these symptoms also occur while women are resting or sleeping. So its important to be aware of the symptoms and talk to your doctor about whether or not they could be associated with your heart health.
Why are womens heart attack symptoms different?
Just as for men, the most common symptom of a heart attack for women is pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But many women dont experience chest pain at all during a heart attack: 42% dont. So while its still important for women to look out for that, its equally important to know that many of the symptoms of a heart attack for women are actually different from those for men. In fact, it may be surprising to know that women dont even need to have blocked arteries for a heart attack to occur, so its understandable that the symptoms may be different.
How Can You Keep Your Heart Healthy
Now that we know just how serious an issue this is, its important to know what you can do to keep your heart as healthy as possible. And, while its true that everyone has a heart, its also important to know that womens heart health is different from mens.
Heart issues in young women: During childbearing years, women have increased estrogen levels. This helps prevent cholesterol buildup in your arteries, which can decrease your risk of developing heart disease. However, when pregnant, a woman can develop pregnancy-related diabetes or high blood pressure, which can put you at increased risk for heart disease.
To help your heart health at a younger age, you can:
- Keep an eye on it: Especially if you experienced one of those pregnancy-related conditions we just mentioned, keep on top of it with your doctor and keep a close eye on your blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
- Eat right: Its never too early to start a heart-healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.
- Work on your fitness: Most experts recommend 150 minutes of exercise per week in bursts of at least 10 minutes at a time to keep your cardiovascular system in shape.
- Dont smoke: Dont start smoking, and if you currently smoke, try to quit as soon as possible, while youre younger and less damage has been done.
Signs of heart attack in women over 40: As your estrogen levels decrease during and after menopause, your risk of heart disease increases.
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