Stacy Blackburn, D.O.
Family Medicine, Prenatal Care, Primary Care
Sweating, nausea, dizziness and unusual fatigue may not sound like typical heart attack symptoms. However, they are common for women and may occur more often when resting or asleep.
Pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest is not always severe or even the most prominent heart attack symptom, particularly in women. That’s why women need to understand their unique symptoms and work to reduce their risk of heart disease.
Certain factors play a more significant role in the development of heart disease in women than the traditional risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity.
Women should control these risk factors to help prevent heart disease:
- Mental stress and depression
- Sedentary lifestyle
Certain conditions, including menopause, broken heart syndrome and pregnancy complications, also may increase a woman's risk for heart disease.
Women all of ages should take heart disease seriously. Women tend to seek care in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred, because their symptoms are not those usually associated with a heart attack, and they tend to downplay their symptoms.
If you experience these symptoms or think you're having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.
Test your knowledge about heart disease and women
The more you know about the nation's No. 1 killer of women, the better. Here's a quiz to test your knowledge about heart disease and women.
True or False: Heart disease only affects older women.
False: Heart disease affects women of all ages. The combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20% in young women, according to the American Heart Association. And risk increases as women age. Overeating and leading a sedentary lifestyle are factors that lead to blocked arteries over time. Don't let your age lull you into a false sense of security.
True or False: Heart disease only affects women who don't take care of themselves.
False: Unfortunately, all the salads and yoga in the world can't eliminate your heart disease risk. Family history often plays a factor.
Knowing your heart health numbers can help. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier if your family has a history of heart disease. And be sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly.
True or False: I feel fine; therefore, I am fine.
False: According to the American Heart Association, 64% of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
And when women experience symptoms, those signs often are misinterpreted. Women's symptoms often are vague — shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Other women experience dizziness, lightheadedness, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, and extreme fatigue. If something feels off or not right, don't wait to seek medical attention.