What women should know about heart health

March 31, 2022

Know the different symptoms of heart attack and easy ways to show your heart some love

Heart disease—the broad term for conditions including high blood pressure, stroke, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and cardiac arrest—is the leading cause of deaths for women in the nation, more than all cancers and other diseases combined.

Women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack and 25% more likely to die in the first year following a heart attack. Why? In addition to having smaller coronary arteries, women can also experience different symptoms when having a heart attack—symptoms that seem more indicative of the flu or another illness. And because these signs vary from more typical or telltale symptoms of a heart attack, often women don’t realize that their heart health is at risk and delay seeking medical attention—which leads to more fatalities.

Early action is important–recognize the signs of symptoms of heart attack in women

Women often experience symptoms unrelated to chest pain that can include:  

  • Upper or lower back pain, head, jaw or neck pain: Pain signaling a heart attack can start in the jaw or head. Some women also reported that they felt tooth pain or headaches but had no chest pain at all. 
  • Nausea and vomiting. Feeling sick to your stomach can be a sign of something much more serious than a common bug. Also be mindful of indigestion, heartburn and reflux. 
  • Overwhelming, unusual or unexplained fatigue. Some women say they had experienced exhaustion or extreme tiredness, often lasting for days. While it is common to feel tired with many illnesses, it could be an indication of a serious health risk. 
  • Light headedness, dizziness, sweating often with shortness of breath. Many women who have had a heart attack say they felt dizzy, had slight heart flutters, and broke out in a cold, clammy sweat—but had no pain in their chests. 
  • Chest or abdominal pressure. Tightness, fullness or pressure can indicate a heart attack.

It can be difficult for women to discern whether you are having a heart attack—so be mindful about all health changes; your body may be trying to tell you something. Take symptoms seriously and err on the side of caution and seek medical help immediately if you think you may be having a heart attack.

Prevention matters

While anyone can develop heart disease, there is a silver lining. An estimated 80% of cardiac complications can be prevented with positive lifestyle changes that include: 

  • Choosing heart-healthy foods. Choose foods your heart will love—like fiber-rich legumes, berries, potassium-rich bananas, dark chocolate, nuts and oily fish like salmon or tuna.
  • Regular physical activity. Aim for 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise—like brisk walking or biking—every week. Your heart will thank you. 
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. Less weight means less strain on your heart and blood vessels—and puts you at a lower risk for heart disease. 
  • Lifestyle changes that incorporate healthy eating—to keep your healthy heart beating. Changing your diet is about so much more than losing weight. The foods you choose fuel your body and keep your organ symptoms running more efficiently. When considering incorporating a new diet, think of it as a lifestyle change that is good for your heart—and can help you shed unwanted pounds. While some fad diets can help people lose weight, the impact they may have on cholesterol levels, blood pressure and your heart health aren’t worth the new number on the scale.

Ask your provider any questions and know that EBCH is always here to answer questions you may have about your heart health. As always, call 911 in an emergency – our emergency room is available 24/7.