Heart disease continues to be the most frequent cause of death in both men and women in the United States. In fact, among women each year, 1 out of 3 deaths are caused by heart disease and stroke. The reality is that heart disease symptoms manifest differently in women. By remaining proactive about your heart health and knowing what signs to recognize, you can vastly reduce your risk of heart disease and ensure you receive the necessary treatment
Women Experience Heart Disease Symptoms Differently
The stereotype of how heart disease manifests proliferates popular culture as an older man clutching his chest in pain. When it comes to women and heart disease, stereotypes do not apply. Chest pain and pressure is a common symptom in both men and women, but women may only experience minimal chest pain or none at all. The symptoms are typically more subtle, but the potential outcome is not any less severe. Symptoms include:
- Neck or Jaw Pain
- Upper Back or Abdominal Discomfort
- Pain in One or Both Arms
If you experience any of the aforementioned symptoms, call 9-1-1 and seek emergency medical attention immediately.
In many cases, heart disease in women goes completely unrecognized until a major cardiac event occurs such as heart failure, arrhythmia, or heart attack. Spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD, is when a tear forms in a blood vessel in the heart. Although uncommon, it most frequently affects women in their 40s or 50s but can occur at any age. Remaining vigilant about your heart health and knowing your risk factors are very important to preventing these life-threatening events.
Heart Disease Risk Factors in Women
Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously, especially if you know you have a family history of heart disease. While some of these are also risk factors for men – like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity – the following are more impactful in the development of heart disease in women:
- Depression & Stress
- Lack of Activity
- High Blood Pressure or Diabetes During Pregnancy
- Family History of Early Heart Disease