Women’s Heart Health
For women, many of the early warning signs of a heart condition are very different from those of men. Heart disease kills nearly 500,000 women each year and is the leading cause of death in women over the age of 25.
Chest pain may not be an indication of a heart attack, but can also be associated with conditions.
Women who experience any of the warning signs of a heart attack should call 911 immediately.
The Anderson Regional Heart Center team quickly evaluates symptoms to determine what is causing chest pain or discomfort.
The typical signs of a heart attack in women include:
- Squeezing chest pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in chest
- Pain spreading to shoulder, neck or arm
Other symptoms of heart attack in women:
- Indigestion or gas-like pain
- Dizziness, nausea or vomiting
- Unexplained weakness, fatigue
- Discomfort/pain between shoulder blades
- Recurring chest discomfort
- Sense of impending doom
The following factors can contribute to the likelihood of having a heart attack:
- High Blood Pressure. Over time, prolonged high blood pressure (> 140/90) can damage arteries that feed your heart its blood supply, contributing to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The risk of high blood pressure increases with age and can also be an inherited problem. Eliminating high sodium foods and obesity will aid in keeping blood pressure down.
- High Cholesterol Levels. Cholesterol accounts for a large part of deposits that can narrow arteries throughout your body, especially the coronary arteries that feed the heart. There is good cholesterol (HDL) and there is bad cholesterol (LDL). The LDL cholesterol is most likely the cause of narrowing arteries contributing to heart disease and is found in foods high in saturated fat. HDL cholesterol helps your body clean up excess cholesterol and lowers your risk for heart disease.
- Cigarette Smoke. Smoking and long-term exposure to smoke causes damage to the interior walls of the arteries, allowing deposits of cholesterol to build up and hamper blood flow. Smoking also increases the formation of blood clots that can cause heart disease.
- Obesity. Obesity raises the risk of heart disease because it is often associated with inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and diabetes.
- Diabetes. Diabetes raises the risk of heart disease by speeding atherosclerosis and negatively affecting cholesterol levels.
- Stress. Too much stress can increase your risk for heart disease by raising blood pressure. High stress can also lead to poor self-care — for example eating high-fat foods and not exercising properly.
- Alcohol. Excessive drinking can raise your risk for heart disease by raising your blood pressure and raising certain types of harmful cholesterol levels. Alcohol in moderation, however, can help raise HDL cholesterol levels and help prevent heart disease.
- Family History of Heart Disease. Family genetics may predispose you to increased cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. You are at an increased risk if your siblings, parents or grandparents have had early heart attacks. Unfortunately, we are unable to change our genetic make-up. However, following a healthy lifestyle will help decrease your chances of heart disease.
For more information on determining your risk for heart disease, please visit your family practice physician.