Skip to main content

BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Women: know the symptoms of heart disease

Jan 25, 2021 03:49PM ● By Kimberly Blaker
heart disease in women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it accounts for 20 percent of female deaths.

Coronary artery disease—also commonly known as coronary heart disease or atherosclerosis—is the most common type of heart disease. More than 6 percent of women over the age of 19 are afflicted by it, which can lead to a heart attack or heart failure.

Heart conditions for which women are at higher risk than men include cardiac syndrome X, angina (chest pain) and broken heart syndrome (stress-induced cardiomyopathy). Women can also be affected by several other heart conditions, such as heart failure, heart valve disease, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and atrial fibrillation (Afib).


Several risk factors for heart disease cannot be modified. Family history, race, gender, menopause and age all play a role in heart disease. Still, many risk factors can be changed. To reduce your risk for disease:

• Quit smoking

• Lower your total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides

• Increase your HDL (good) cholesterol

• Reduce your blood pressure if it’s high

• Keep diabetes under control

• Maintain a healthy body weight

• Eat heart-healthy foods

• Exercise regularly

• Reduce stress

Also, a drink a day may offer some benefit to your heart by increasing your HDL cholesterol. But medical experts caution against more than one drink per day. Studies have found that high alcohol consumption can damage the heart. Although some studies suggest alcohol may be beneficial in moderation, others have shown the effect. 

Heart attack signs

Women can experience all the same symptoms as men. However, women often experience heart attacks differently. For instance, women don’t always experience crushing chest pain. Instead, they may feel tightness or pressure in their chest. As a result, symptoms can go unnoticed or are easily brushed off. If the pain or discomfort goes away and then comes back or lasts for more than a few minutes, it could be a symptom.

Other symptoms include:

• shortness of breath

• pain, discomfort, weakness or heaviness in either arm

• discomfort in the neck, jaw, upper back, shoulders or stomach

• indigestion, nausea or vomiting

• cold sweats

• fatigue

• sleep disturbance

• dizziness or lightheadedness

What to do if you’re having a heart attack

Call 911 immediately. This is usually faster than having someone drive you to the hospital.

If you’re in a public place, a defibrillator may be available. Ask whoever you see first to check. Defibrillators come with easy instructions and could save your life.

Finally, take an aspirin, says Anthony Komaroff, MD, editor-in-chief of the Harvard Health Letter. He recommends chewing a standard dose of 325 mg that isn’t coated and then swallowing it with a glass of water to quickly get it into your system. This can slow blood clotting and limit damage to your heart.

Women, get free help with your health

Sign up for our Newsletter

* indicates required
I am a...