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Published on February 01, 2019

Women’s Health: How Heart Disease Is Different for Women

How Heart Disease is Different for Women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, but often develops later in women than men. Women’s symptoms often differ from those in men. Symptoms include:

  • Chest pressure.
  • Unusual fatigue.
  • Shortness of breath that’s new or atypical.
  • Indigestion (heartburn) that hasn’t occurred before.

Risk factors include a family history of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and smoking.

Women should talk to their doctor about taking preventative action early to avoid a heart attack. Steps include:

  • Control your blood pressure – know what it is and take control.
  • If you have diabetes or are obese – take good control by maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Know your cholesterol levels after the age of 20– both HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol).
  • Stop smoking.

The classic sign of a heart attack is severe chest pressure and pain that may radiate into the neck, left arm and/or shoulder, yet there are certain types of people who often experience atypical symptoms. The female and diabetic populations will commonly experience symptoms of nausea; vomiting; sweating; extreme fatigue or weakness; and/or pain in the neck, jaw or back when having a heart attack. Prompt medical attention and treatment is of utmost importance for those experiencing a heart attack. If you or someone around you is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack and/or collapses, call 911 immediately and get help. Do not drive yourself to the hospital.

Paula Ross, MD, is a cardiologist with Cone Health Medical Group HeartCare. Ross is a 1989 graduate of University of Michigan Medical School. She completed her residency in internal medicine at University of Michigan Hospitals and completed a fellowship in cardiology at University of Texas Southwestern at Dallas and University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.