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Heart Disease in Women: Understanding the Risks and Symptoms

February 5, 2021

Think of the representations of heart disease or heart attack that you’ve seen in the media or popular culture. Most likely, you picture a middle-aged man suddenly clutching his chest or grabbing his arm. Of course, everyone knows that these conditions can affect women too, but many do not realize just how evenly distributed they are. In fact, heart disease affects the sexes nearly equally and is the leading cause of death for both. However, there are some key differences that can help women better understand their risk and how they may experience heart disease differently.

Heart Disease Develops Later in Women

Women who suffer from heart disease are more likely than men to develop the condition later in life. Frequently, problems do not begin until after menopause which has an average age of onset of 51 years. Prior to menopause, it is believed that high levels of estrogen hormones provide increased cardiovascular protection.

Women May Have Different Heart Attack Symptoms

Chest pain and pressure is the hallmark symptom of heart attack in both men and women. However, women are more likely than men to experience other, less obvious symptoms of a problem, including:

  • Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulder, or jaw
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness and dizziness

Women Can Have Different Risk Factors for Heart Disease

High blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and obesity are all factors that put both men and women at a heightened risk for heart disease. In addition to these, however, there are additional risk factors which are more likely to play a role in the development of heart disease for women. A woman may be more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease if she has any of the following:

  • Stress and depression
  • Diabetes
  • A history of smoking
  • Previous treatment for breast cancer
  • Pregnancy-related complications of high blood pressure or gestational diabetes

Heart Care for Baton Rouge Area Women

If you are in the Baton Rouge area and are concerned about the possible development of heart disease, you need a skilled cardiologist on your side. Lane Regional Medical Center, in partnership with Cardiovascular Institute of the South, is home to some of the region’s best heart doctors. Click below to learn more about our practice or to request an appointment.

Learn More About Lane Cardiology