Healthy Living

Heart Attack Warning Signs May Vary in Women

Feb. 26, 2024

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US. It's crucial to understand that men and women may experience different symptoms. Identifying the symptoms specific to women can be a life-saving endeavor.

UR Medicine Cardiologist Dr. Rebecca Schallek says women and men can experience heart attacks very differently and it’s important to know the range of symptoms.

The Importance of Identifying Specific Signs in Women Vs. Men

Woman experiences shoulder pain--a potential sign of heart attack for some.

Men typically feel pressure or squeezing pain in the center of their chest, which may radiate to the neck, shoulder, or jaw.

Women, on the other hand, may not experience the "hallmark symptom" of chest pain. Instead, they might feel pain in the arm, shoulder, or neck, fatigue, and nausea.

It's common for women to downplay these signs and mistake these symptoms for a stomach bug or a minor ailment, leading to delayed medical attention.

Understanding Potential Risk Factors

Out of the 44% of women living with heart disease, one in five will succumb to it. While heart disease can have a hereditary component, lifestyle choices play a crucial role in reducing the risk. Here are some preventive steps for women's heart health:

heart beat image

  • Quit smoking: Tobacco use increases the risk of death from heart disease by 2 to 3 times. Wilmot Cancer Institute offers smoking cessation programs for those looking to quit. The Center for Community Health & Prevention also provides services for those looking to quit smoking or vaping.
  • Regular exercise: Engage in physical activity to strengthen your heart.
  • Plant-based diet: Ensure quality nutrition by adopting a plant-based diet.
  • Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol: Keep a close eye on these vital indicators.
  • Stress management: Minimize chronic stress, which can contribute to heart issues. Try these science-backed ways to reduce stress.

    Seeking Medical Care

    If you are concerned about your family history or personal risk factors, it's crucial to consult with your provider. Regular check-ups and discussions about your heart health can save your life. Importantly, by understanding the differences in symptoms between men and women, individuals can take proactive measures to protect their heart health.

    Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle and seeking professional guidance can significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, ultimately contributing to a longer and healthier life for women.

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