Heart disease is different in women: 5 surprising facts every woman should know

Scientists have concluded that heart disease symptoms appear differently in women than in men. Not only is this a great discovery, but the importance of recognizing the symptoms can prevent a woman from having an unexpected heart attack. According to the medical journal, 80% of women said they experienced symptoms for more than a month before having a heart attack.

Various symptoms
The Duke Institute for Clinical Research explains the differences between the sexes when reporting potential symptoms of heart disease. Chest pain is a common sign in both men and women, however, the pain is described differently. Men experience a dull ache or a burning sensation in their chest, while women describe their pain as crushing pressure or tightness.

Women are more likely than men to have back, neck or jaw pain and heart palpitations as initial symptoms, while men are more likely to feel tired and weak. Women are more likely to report nausea or vomiting, indigestion, loss of appetite, cough, dizziness, and palpitations.

Dr. Atiq Rahman, Cardiac Surgery Services at Lourdes Medical Associates, explains why women experience different symptoms than men. Psychological factors may be involved in the expression of symptoms. Since it is common for women to have multiple distractions such as work, family, and children, this creates unnecessary anxiety, stress, or depression, which can mask the classic symptoms of a heart attack.

The possibility of heart disease
Perry Mears, MD, director of the Women’s Heart Center at Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute, says women tend to have ischemic heart disease or heart problems caused by narrowed arteries. “Women with ischemic heart disease usually have major arteries that are free of plaque, but the smaller coronary blood vessels stop contracting and dilating properly, reducing blood and oxygen flow to the heart,” he says.

Women with symptoms of ischemic heart disease may benefit from treatments that range from appropriate medications to reduce heart attacks and control symptoms, as well as lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, a low-fat diet, and regular physical activity. However, women can have normal angiograms even when they have ischemic heart disease.

Risks to women
The Cedars-Sinai Institute says that women with a history of irregular menstrual cycles, estrogen deficiency, and polycystic ovary syndrome may have a higher risk of heart disease as they age.

Women are often told that their stress tests are normal or that they have “false positives”. Perry Mears says doctors should pay attention to symptoms such as chest pain and shortness of breath rather than relying on the stress test score.

Although we still have limited knowledge about spotting heart disease symptoms in women, it is important to note the symptoms listed and seek treatment provided by your doctor.

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