All women live with a risk of heart disease. Heart disease is the most common cause of death for both men and women in the United States, but signs and symptoms can look different in women's cases than in men's. It's important for women to know about heart disease risks and symptoms that could affect them. Armed with the right information, you can help protect yourself against heart disease and improve your outcomes if you ever do find yourself dealing with a heart condition. At Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care, our experienced team has the knowledge you can trust around dangerous conditions like heart disease. Dr. James Y. Lee, DO offers expert women's health services with a patient-focused approach.
Women's signs and symptoms of heart disease
Heart attacks in women most commonly include chest pain, pressure, or discomfort, just as in men. However, women's chest pain sensations can be less intense: more of a pressure or tightness than a sharp pain. Heart attacks can happen without any chest pain at all.
Women are more likely than men to have more heart attack symptoms than just chest pain. Other symptoms of heart attacks in women include:
- Discomfort in your neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdomen
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea, indigestion, or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Sweating, lightheadedness, or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
As you can see, some of women's more common symptoms may be vague and difficult to notice – more so than the dramatic symptoms associated with men's heart attacks. Women are also more likely to experience symptoms while sleeping or resting, times when you might not be paying close attention to subtle symptoms. Emotional disturbances can be associated with heart attacks, another factor that can mask your awareness of your symptoms and danger.
If you wait too long to get medical attention for a heart problem, you risk permanent damage. If you're concerned about any of these symptoms, call for emergency help. If you think you might have heart disease, discuss your symptoms with a doctor as soon as possible.
Heart disease risk factors for women
Factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity increase heart attack risks for both men and women, but women also face some unique issues when it comes to heart disease. Some of the factors that can elevate women's risk of heart disease include:
- Diabetes, which may also “muffle” heart attack symptoms by changing your perception of pain
- Depression or mental stress, which affect women's hearts more than men's
- Health concerns like smoking and lack of physical activity
- Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
- Reproductive experiences like pregnancy or menopause
Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Eating a heart-healthy diet, getting regular exercise, and reducing or resolving stress can all help you stay free from heart disease. Treatments for heart disease, including medication and surgical approaches, can help both male and female patients, although coronary bypass surgery poses greater risks of complications for women.
If you're concerned about your risk of heart disease, Dr. Lee and the Woodstock Family Practice and Urgent Care team can work with you to develop a plan to support your heart health. Getting your annual checkups will increase your chances of early detection and successful treatment. To schedule your appointment, call our Woodstock, Georgia office, or use the online booking tool.