Heart Disease in Women | UnityPoint - Cedar Rapids

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Women and Heart Disease

You are unique - and so is your heart.

Many women are unaware that heart attacks are the leading cause of death for both women and men. Although the heart attack risk is the same for both sexes, women's bodies often respond differently than men's during a heart attack.

Women don't always have pain in their arm or chest when having a heart attack. Instead, a woman may experience other symptoms such as nausea, heartburn, and back or jaw pain. Women are also less likely than men to believe they're having a heart attack and more likely to delay seeking emergency treatment.

The most important thing you can do? Trust your body. If you think something is wrong, don't hesitate to call 9-1-1.

If you're ready to start taking care of your heart, check out these simple ways to prevent heart problems.

Heart attacks symptoms in women can be different than men

Like in men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is pain or discomfort in the chest. However, women can also have a heart attack without having any chest pain. Some of the other symptoms women might experience include:

• Feeling out of breath 
• Pain that runs along the neck, jaw, or upper back 
• Nausea, vomiting or indigestion 
• Unexplained sweating or dizziness 
• Sudden or overwhelming fatigue

Are  heart attack symptoms different in women?

Ask the Expert with Keith Kopec, MD, UnityPoint Clinic - Cardiology

Heart disease isn't just a man's disease. Heart attacks are the number one cause of death in both women and men, but symptoms of this killer are not gender neutral. "The symptoms experienced by women can be different than those of men," said Keith Kopec, MD, cardiologist.

"The classic symptom men typically feel is heaviness or weight in the upper chest but this is not always felt by women. A lot of women will present with fatigue, they can be short of breath or can just have vague aches and pains in the chest."

According to the American Heart Association (AHA) many women believe cancer is more of a health threat, but that's not the case. Nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases than all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.

"There are several factors that increase the risk of heart disease and stroke," said Dr. Kopec. "The more risk factors a woman has, the greater her chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Some of these risk factors you can't control, such as increasing age, family health history, race and gender. But you can modify, treat or control most risk factors to lower your risk."

One of the best things a woman can do to reduce her heart attack risk is to stop smoking. Other areas she can improve would include: reducing blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, losing weight, exercising and minimizing stress. "Women tend to put their issues behind those of their family," said Dr. Kopec. "Unfortunately it can hurt them and they need to pay
attention to and take care of their own health issues."

If you or someone you know is experiencing chest discomfort that is lasting and not going away seek medical attention immediately! Call 911 or get to the hospital right away. Every minute counts!

Women & Heart Disease Articles and Videos featuring UnityPoint Health experts

Women & Heart Disease: How a woman's heart attack symptoms are different Featuring Dr. Laila Payvandi, UnityPoint Health Cardiology Clinic

Fats: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

 15 Heart Healthy Ways to Take Care of Your Heart

View all articles and videos at unitypoint.org/livewell.