Each year, nearly twice as many women die from heart disease as the next seven causes of death … combined. We're here to help. Learn about risk factors, the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women, and some critical questions to ask your doctor.
Once you've learned about heart disease, make an appointment with your physician to learn more about the care and treatment of your own unique heart. It's a move that quite simply could save your life.
Because many women don't even know that they have heart disease, it's important to know the warning signs and when it's time to see your doctor. If you know what symptoms to look for, you can work with your physician to treat them early.
Nausea, fatigue and shortness of breath are some symptoms of heart disease in women, but they can also signal anxiety or stress. In a Gallup survey, 88 percent of primary care physicians were not aware that women's heart-attack symptoms might differ greatly from men's symptoms. In addition, emergency room (ER) physicians miss the signs of a heart attack much more often in women under 55 than in men under 55, according to a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Heart attack warning signs in women:
- Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
- Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, jaw or arms
- Chest discomfort may also be experienced in the upper back between the shoulder blades
- Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
Less common signs in women:
- Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain
- Unexplained weakness, fatigue or anxiety
- Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness
- Shortness of breath (often associated with signs listed above)
Because women's symptoms are often misdiagnosed, they're far less likely to be treated with aspirin, beta-blockers and other heart-attack prevention medications. Cardiac catheterization tests are ordered at a much lower rate for women than for men.
Your best defense is knowledge. Learn about your own heart health and take an active role in your health care.
Are you at risk?
The good news is that many of the risk factors for heart disease in women can be controlled with lifestyle changes and/or medication. Learn more about your risk factors.