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Understand Your Risk Of Heart Disease

Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms

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:

  • Obesity
  • Depression
  • Smoking

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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What Are The Risk Factors For Women’s Heart Disease

While several traditional risk factors for heart disease can affect both women and men, other factors may play a greater role in the onset of heart disease in women. These can include:

  • Some other risk factors which cannot be controlled include menopause, pregnancy complications like preeclampsia or gestational diabetes , age, and family history.


A family history of heart disease does increase your risk of illness and death, but researchers at the Institute have made an exciting discovery which could reduce the rate of heart attacks in women and transform the treatment of heart and vascular disease for females.

The Institutes Executive Director, Professor Jason Kovacic, was at the centre of the new sex-specific research which compared the genetic changes of men and women at risk of a heart attack, allowing for a better understanding of Australias biggest killer.

Signs of poor heart health are not always obvious, which is why it’s important to regularly monitor things like your cholesterol levels, blood pressure and glucose. It is also important to encourage the women close to you to have regular check-ups to reduce the risk of heart disease or heart attack.

Women And Heart Disease

The term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a mans disease, almost as many women as men die each year of heart disease in the United States.

This map shows death rates from heart disease in women in the United States. The darker red indicates a higher death rate.

If you feel heart attack symptoms:

  • Donât delay getting help.Women generally wait longer than men before going to the emergency room, says Rita F. Redberg, MD, MSc, FACC, director of Womens Cardiovascular Services for the UCSF Division of Cardiology in San Francisco. Even if you think your symptoms arenât that bad or will pass, the stakes are too high.
  • Dont drive yourself to the hospital. You need an ambulance. If you drive, you could have a wreck on the way and possibly hurt yourself or someone else.
  • Donât have a friend or relative drive you, either. You may not get there fast enough.
  • Donât dismiss what you feel.Dont worry about feeling silly if youre wrong, Goldberg says. You have to get it checked out right away.

People dont want to spend hours in an emergency room if it isnt a heart attack, Bairey Merz says. But women are actually good at deciding what is typical for themselves and when to seek health care.

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Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director, Joan H. Tisch Center for Womenâs Health, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York.

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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.

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  • As with men, womens most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
  • Early Warning Signs Of Heart Attack In Women

    Getting to the Heart of Heart Attacks in Women

    Many people believe that a heart attack happens suddenly and intensely. But its also possible that your first warning signs may show up hours, days, or weeks before your heart attack.

    A study of 515 women found that about 95% had symptoms more than one month before their heart attack. Some of these symptoms include:

    Women are also more likely to have silent heart attacks, where there are no symptoms or very mild symptoms.

    You may only learn that you had a silent heart attack days or weeks after it happened. A study of 708 heart attack cases showed that more than 25% of heart attacks were only discovered during routine medical check-ups.

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    Symptoms Of Heart Attack In Women

    A heart attack is a life-threatening incident caused by a blood supply interruption to the heart. Knowing the female-specific signs of a heart attack may help a person seek medical treatment earlier, saving their lives. Women are less likely than men to survive their first heart attack. This may be because the symptoms vary between the sexes. Women are more likely to suffer a silent heart attack or show unusual signs.

    Female biology also creates unique risk factors for heart failure. Disorders that increase risk, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome , are not found in male biology.

    Shoulder Pain From Heart Attack

    Although heart attack is most commonly associated with chest pain, it can also cause pain or discomfort in other parts of the body, including the shoulder.

    Both women and men may experience shoulder pain during a heart attack. Some research suggests shoulder pain during a heart attack may be more common in women than men.

    A 2018 study looked at 532 people who had an ST-elevation myocardial infarction , a type of heart attack that affects the whole heart muscle wall. Shoulder pain was twice as common in women than men. Throat and back pain were also more common in women.

    Heart attack in men usually causes chest pain or discomfort, which may feel like pain, heaviness, pressure, fullness, squeezing, or heartburn. It typically lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away but returns again.

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    How Can I Lower My Cholesterol

    You can lower your cholesterol by taking these steps:

    Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your total cholesterol and LDL levels. Calculate your Body Mass Index to see if you are at a healthy weight. If not, try making small changes like eating an apple instead of potato chips, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the entrance to your office, the grocery store, or the mall.

    Eat better. Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol.

    Eat more:

    • Fish, poultry , and lean meats . Broil, bake, roast, or poach foods. Remove the fat and skin before eating.
    • Skim or low-fat milk and cheeses, and low-fat or nonfat yogurt
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Cereals, breads, rice, and pasta made from whole grains

    Eat less:

    • Heart Healthy Diet
    • Therapeutic Lifestyles Changes Diet

    Get moving.Exercise can help lower LDL and raise HDL . Exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes each week, or get 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity each week.

    • Take your medicine. If your doctor has prescribed medicine to lower your cholesterol, take it exactly as you have been told to.

    What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Disease

    Heart Attack Signs for Women

    High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of all people in the United States have at least one of these three risk factors.6

    Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including

    • Diabetes

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    What Procedures Treat A Heart Attack

    The most common procedures to treat a heart attack include:

    • Angioplasty and stenting. Angioplasty, also called percutaneous coronary intervention, is a nonsurgical procedure that opens blocked or narrowed coronary arteries. A thin, flexible tube with a medical balloon on the end is threaded through a blood vessel to the narrowed or blocked coronary artery. Once in place, the balloon is inflated to open the artery to allow blood flow to the heart. The balloon is then deflated and removed. A small mesh tube called a stent may be permanently placed in the artery. The stent helps prevent new blockages in the artery.
    • Coronary artery bypass grafting. The surgeon uses a healthy blood vessel from another part of your body to re-route blood around the blockage in your artery. You may need this surgery if more than one artery is blocked, or if angioplasty and stenting did not work to restore blood flow to the heart.

    After a heart attack, you may also need cardiac rehabilitation to recover from the damage the heart attack did to your heart.

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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:

    • Arms
    • Fatigue
    • Indigestion

    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.

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    Gender Diversity And Common Emergency Symptoms

    People who identify as trans, non-binary or gender diverse may wonder which symptoms they should be on the lookout for in an emergency. You should always talk to your doctor about your specific situation and medical history to get their advice and an assessment of your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. As a general rule, if the symptom is unusual, severe, or long-lasting you should seek medical attention early. If you think you could be having a heart attack or stroke, call triple zero for an ambulance immediately, even if you dont think you have stereotypical symptoms.

    What Is A Heart Attack


    Heart attack signs and symptoms in men and women: Chest pain or discomfort Shortness of breath Pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, back, arm, or shoulder Feeling nauseous, light-headed, or unusually tired.

    A heart attack, also called a myocardial infarction, happens when a part of the heart muscle doesnt get enough blood.

    The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart muscle.

    Coronary artery disease is the main cause of heart attack. A less common cause is a severe spasm, or sudden contraction, of a coronary artery that can stop blood flow to the heart muscle.

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    Heart Attacks Striking Younger Women

    Younger women are having more heart attacks, says a recent study.Researchers were surprised to find that while the heart attack rate hasdecreased among older adults, it’s risen among those ages 35-54, especiallywomen. TheAtherosclerosis Risk in Communities studyreviewed more than 28,000 hospitalizations for heart attacks in fourcities.

    “This observational study found a trend in young women,” saysVirginia Colliver, M.D., cardiologist withJohns Hopkins Community Physicians-Heart Carein Bethesda, Maryland. “But the research doesn’t provide insight into whythe uptick in heart attacks is happening to younger people. I suspect ithas to do with more people having risk factors for heart disease at anearlier age.”

    Does Menopausal Hormone Therapy Increase A Woman’s Risk For Heart Disease

    Menopausal hormone therapy can help with some symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, and bone loss, but there are risks, too. For some women, taking hormones can increase their chances of having a heart attack or stroke. If you decide to use hormones, use them at the lowest dose that helps for the shortest time needed. Talk with your doctor if you have questions about MHT.

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    Learn About Your Local Heart Attack Resources

    One of the most important ways you can advocate for yourself is doing research. âTake action before you ever have a heart attack,â Caulin-Glaser says.

    âItâs important for women to do their homework regarding the hospitals in their neighborhoods. Find out which hospitals specialize in heart disease,â she says. Some questions for women to ask:

    • Does the hospital have a cardiac catheterization lab that performs procedures such as angioplasties and stents?
    • Is this âcath labâ available 24 hours, seven days a week?
    • Is there a coronary bypass surgery program?
    • Once women arrive in the emergency room with a heart attack, how quickly are they sent to the cath lab?
    • Can doctors open a blocked blood vessel within the acceptable range of 90 minutes?
    • Are all of the doctors in the emergency department board-certified in emergency medicine

    What Is Broken Heart Syndrome

    Heart attack signs and symptoms in women

    Broken heart syndrome is a condition with symptoms that may feel like a heart attack, like chest pain, and shortness of breath, but itâs caused by going through an emotionally stressful event, not by clogged arteries.

    It’s triggered by very stressful situations, like the death of someone you love.

    Your doctor may call this stress-induced cardiomyopathy or takotsubo cardiomyopathy.

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    What Are The Risk Factors For Heart Attack

    Several health conditions, your lifestyle, and your age and family history can increase your risk for heart disease and heart attack. These are called risk factors. About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and smoking.2

    Some risk factors cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history. But you can take steps to lower your risk by changing the factors you can control.

    Learn more about risk factors for heart disease and heart attack.

    Experiencing Discomfort In Other Parts Of The Body:

    Other parts of the body may experience radiating discomfort and tightness. Most individuals believe that a heart attack feels like agony running down their left arm. Although such is a possibility, discomfort can also occur elsewhere, such as in the:

    • Upper abdomen.
    • The rear of the shoulder
    • Throat
    • Teeth
    • Jaw

    According to the American Heart Association, women frequently experience heart attacks that are particularly painful in the lower abdomen and lower part of the chest.

    Itâs possible that the discomfort isnât even entirely in the chest. It could feel like chest pressure and discomfort in various bodily regions. Another complaint mentioned by women more frequently than by men is upper back discomfort.

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    I Thought I Had The Flu

    Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.

    They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first, Goldberg said. There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.

    A heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances .

    What To Do If You Notice Heart Attack Symptoms

    Heart Attack Symptoms: Men vs. Women

    If you do suspect you might have heart attack symptoms and some do appear weeks or months before a heart attack dont discount them out of hand or let them linger for too long. Women often think its something else, says Dr. Cho. The sad thing is, women do tend to have more blockages in their heart when they do need to have something done.

    In fact, women tend to get heart disease later than men do. Men get in their 50s and 60s, and women get it in their 60s and 70s, says Dr. Cho. Women always get it 10 years later because of the effect of estrogen.The sooner you report a problem, the better chance you have of catching an issue before it becomes a full-blown heart attack. If you experience any of these symptoms, take note and visit your doctor as quickly as possible. Its very important that you not become your own doctor but let somebody else be your doctor, Dr. Cho says.

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