Heart Attacks in Women: A Matter of the Heart
When most people think about a heart attack, what is likely to come to mind is an image of an elderly man grabbing his chest, gasping for air as he calls out for help. Though 70 to 90 percent of sudden cardiac events do occur in men, a significant amount of women will face heart disease in their lifetime.
Each year, heart disease claims more female lives than breast cancer and lung cancer combined. A major challenge in the fight against female heart disease is the misunderstanding that heart attacks are experienced the same way across both genders. In fact, men and women can experience heart attacks differently.
Heart Attack Symptoms for Women
Knowing the symptoms of heart attacks in females is the first step in prevention. Heart attack symptoms are not always as obvious to detect. Whereas men usually experience some type of pain or discomfort in their chest, many women will experience “silent” heart attack symptoms, such as:
- Discomfort in the neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal region
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Excessive sweating
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Heightened levels of fatigue
- Discomfort of lower chest
Heart Attack Risk Factors for Women
Many of heart attack risk factors are the same for men and women, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history of heart disease, obesity and age. However, it is important to note that there are a few heart attack risk factors that are higher in women, including:
- Race – Compared the other races, studies show that African American women are more likely to experience heart disease.
Metabolic syndrome–Metabolic syndrome is the name for a cluster of conditions that occur together and raise heart attack risk, including high blood sugar levels, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels. These conditions tend to occur together in women more often than men.
The combination of mental stress and depression can be more harmful to women’s hearts, so talk to a doctor if you are experiencing changes in your mental health.
- Smoking – The risk of developing heart disease is higher in female smokers than male smokers.
- Estrogen Levels – Low estrogen levels after menopause may be linked to heart disease in women.
Heart Attack Prevention
Preventing a heart attack starts with maintaining a healthy lifestyle and visiting your doctor regularly. Make sure to exercise daily to keep a healthy weight, eat a balance diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt as well as quit or don’t start smoking. Think about having a heart and stroke screening to make sure your health is in check. If you are experiencing heart attack symptoms, do not wait to receive medical attention.
Exceptional Heart Care at UnityPoint Health - Fort Dodge
Both men and women of all ages are susceptible to heart disease. UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge is here for your heart, whether you are looking for options to manage high blood pressure or suffering from a circulatory issue. Schedule an appointment today with one of our heart care specialists, and start living with the confidence that your heart health is in the right hands.