Heart disease isn’t just a problem that affects men. If you’re a woman, no matter what your age, you may be at risk for developing the disease. Unfortunately, being female may also affect the level of care you receive if you have a heart issue.
Women are more likely to experience testing and treatment delays and misdiagnoses during hospital and doctor visits, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). They’re also less likely to recognize symptoms of heart disease or a heart attack and to seek medical attention for those symptoms.
Learning about heart health and advocating for yourself if you have heart disease symptoms or risk factors will help you better protect your health.
How Heart Disease Affects Women
Heart disease is the leading killer of women of all ages and races in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although the likelihood of developing the disease increases after menopause, younger women can also suffer from heart issues.
You may be diagnosed with heart disease if your heart doesn’t pump blood efficiently, a valve inside the heart doesn’t work correctly, your heart muscle is damaged, or your arteries are narrow or clogged. Heart conditions deprive your body of the oxygen and nutrients it needs. Heart disease can raise your risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots, heart failure and peripheral artery disease.
Symptoms of heart disease may include:
Signs of Heart Attack in Women
Women tend to experience different heart attack symptoms than men and don’t necessarily experience the telltale sign of a heart attack like you see in the movies – crushing chest pain. If you’re having a heart attack, you may or may not feel pain in the left side of your chest or your left arm. Women often report feeling dizzy, nauseated or tired when having a heart attack. Other symptoms can include shortness of breath, indigestion, upper abdominal pain, fainting, or pain in your neck, jaw or upper back. If you have any of these symptoms, get someone to take you to the hospital or call 911 immediately.
What Women Can Do to Improve Heart Health
These four tips can help you protect your heart and improve your overall health:
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