Heart Disease in Women

Heart disease is any disease that affects the heart and blood-vessel system and includes: heart attack, stroke, coronary heart disease, and high blood pressure. The death rate from heart disease increases as women age, especially after they reach menopause. More women than men die of heart disease each year. Women with heart disease often have different symptoms than men. Symptoms may be much more subtle and inconspicuous than in men and are many times overlooked. This often results in a delayed diagnosis of a heart condition, often at a later and more serious stage than men. The physicians of the Heart Medical Group are well educated in this phenomenon and have the training, skills and experience to treat cardiovascular (heart) disease in women.

Symptoms of Heart Attack in Women

Although both men and women tend to experience angina (chest pain) when having heart attacks, many women do not experience any chest pain at all. Because women tend to have blockages in the smaller arteries that supply blood to their heart, they typically have symptoms that include the following:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness

During a heart attack, women may also experience neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort. These symptoms may be subtle and may come and go.

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease in Women

A woman who has a family history of heart disease is at greater risk of developing it herself. However, the following lifestyle modifications can help reduce a woman's risk for developing heart disease:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Eating a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing weight
  • Avoiding stress
  • Regulating diabetes
  • Monitoring blood pressure
  • Reducing triglyceride levels
  • Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption

Hormone replacement therapy is no longer recommended for postmenopausal women, as it puts women at a greater risk for heart disease. While women age 55 and older have an increased risk of heart disease, women of all ages should be concerned about heart health and make healthy lifestyle choices to prevent heart disease.