Heart disease is a condition most often associated with men, but women are just as susceptible to heart disease as their male counterparts. In fact, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute notes that coronary heart disease, or CHD, is the foremost killer of both men and women in the United States.
While heart disease does not discriminate based on gender, it does not necessarily manifest itself in women the same way it does in men. Recognizing the symptoms of heart disease in females as well as the risk factors can help women in their fights against this potentially deadly disease.
Symptoms of heart disease in women
The symptoms of heart disease in women depend on the type of problem women may be suffering from.
• Arrhythmia: Arrhythmia occurs when the heart beats at an abnormal rhythm that can be too fast, too slow or even erratically.
• CHD: CHD occurs when plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries, which help deliver oxygen-rich blood to the heart. A woman suffering from CHD may develop angina, a condition marked by severe pain in the chest. The pain may spread to the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.
• Heart attack: Women suffering from heart attack may feel chest pain or discomfort and/or pain in their upper backs and necks. Lesser known potential indicators of heart attack include, indigestion, heartburn, nausea and vomiting, and extreme fatigue.
• Heart failure: Women suffering from heart failure may experience shortness of breath, fatigue and/or swelling in their feet, ankles, legs, and abdomen.
Risk factors for women
Much like the symptoms of heart disease are similar in men and women, so, too, are the risk factors. For example, high cholesterol and obesity put both men and women at risk of heart disease. But there are some factors that affect women's risk of developing heart disease more so than men.
• Abdominal fat: When combined with high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides, abdominal fat increases women's risk for heart disease more so than it does men in the same physical condition.
• Diabetes: Women with diabetes are at a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease than men with diabetes.
• Pregnancy: High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase a woman's long-term risk of high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for heat disease.
• Smoking: Smoking and heart disease are linked, but smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in females than it is among males.
Heart disease is most often associated with men, but women can be just as susceptible to this potentially deadly foe as their male counterparts.