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While people typically picture a male when they think of heart disease, it is actually is the number one killer of women. The reality is one in three women die of heart disease and stroke in spite of their being 80 percent preventable. Friday, Feb. 6, the American Heart Association is holding its annual National Wear Red Day to raise awareness of heart disease, particularly for women who have different symptoms then men.
Women, and men, need to be aware of the dissimilarities is that symptoms of heart disease between the sexes. Women have different symptoms and risk factors. Since the first Wear Red Day, the Heart Association proudly claims that progress has been made. In fact, they report that death from heart disease in women has decreased 30 percent.
While obesity, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are risk factors for heart disease for anyone. There are several risk factors that are worse for women:
- Diabetes increases the risk more for women than men.
- Fat around the abdomen and high triglycerides affect women more.
- Women suffer far more mental stress and depression than men, which can lead to heart disease.
- Smoking is a greater risk for women.
- Lack of physical activity is more common for women.
- Complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure and gestational diabetes, increase the risk later on as the women age.
Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms
When men feel a heart attack coming on, they experience crushing chest pain and pain that typically radiates down one arm. For women, however, the symptoms can be vague and easy to miss. Females do not always experience the same symptoms indicating a heart attack as men, such as crushing pain in the chest area that radiates down one arm. Those classic male heart attack symptoms do sometimes happen to women, but many experience “silent” symptoms or vague ones that are easy to miss.
Here are the most common heart attack symptoms for women:
- Chest pain or discomfort: The chest discomfort for women can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side. They are usually really uncomfortable during a heart attack, but do not always the severe chest pain.
- Stomach pain: The stomach pain that signals a heart attack can easily be mistaken for heartburn, the flu, or a stomach ulcer. There may even be nausea and vomiting. In some women, however, there is severe abdominal pressure.
- Pain in the arm, back, neck, or jaw: Also more common in women than in men, the pain and location of it are misleading. It can be gradual or sudden, and it may vary in intensity. As a result, it is a good idea to report any atypical or unusual symptoms in any body part above the waist to the doctor or other health care provider.
- Shortness of breath or lightheadedness: A women having trouble breathing for no apparent reason is not always a sign of asthma. It can be a heart attack symptom, especially if combined with one or more other symptoms.
- Fatigue: Some women feel extremely tired, even if they have been sitting still for a while or have not moved much. Simple activities, like a walk to the bathroom, are exhausting.
- Sweating: A nervous, cold sweat is common for women who are having a heart attack. Of course, during menopause or in stressful situations, the excess perspiration might not seem strange. Someone who rarely sweats like that and is not dealing with heat, exercise or hot flashes, also needs to be checked out.
While the symptoms of heart disease are different for women, it is important they are not dismissed and help is sought out. Unfortunately, medical professional report that women wait longer than men before going to the emergency room because they believe the symptoms are not that bad or will pass.