5 Things to Know About Women’s Heart Disease

By: Ally Gravina

November 02, 2022

Nurse checking senior woman's vital signs in her home

Heart disease is more common in women than many people think. In fact, it is the leading cause of death in the United States, ahead of cancer and stroke. However, the common signs and symptoms we often associate with men and heart disease don’t always align with women.  

Thankfully, Renown Health is home to the first women’s heart center in Nevada. The Helaine Greenberg Women’s Heart Center gives women in our community the opportunity to receive exemplary care and education.  

“At the Women’s Heart Center, we are proud to offer the women of our community the treatments, therapies and education they need to fight this silent killer,” Dr. Danish Atwal

1. The warning signs for heart disease present differently in women than they do in men.  

Both men and women may experience chest pain during a heart attack, but the similarity of symptoms ends there. Heart disease is especially problematic for women because more than half of women who die of heart disease have no symptoms at all. Women tend to have subtler symptoms that mimic symptoms associated with common, mild illnesses: 

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Pain, pressure or tightness in the center of the chest
  • Pain that spreads to the upper body, neck or jaw 
  • Sweating, nausea or vomiting  
  • Sudden dizziness  
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Trouble sleeping  

2. Women are often not treated with the same medications as men, even when they should be. 

Women are less likely to receive heart medication because their disease is often misdiagnosed or because they do not seek proper care. According to a study done by Harvard Health Publishing in 2020, “A general lack of awareness of women’s heart disease may lead to doctors or patients missing heart attacks in women or delaying their diagnosis. For example, while the frequency of cardiovascular disease tends to be lower in women before menopause than in men, the frequency dramatically increases after menopause, when it accounts for approximately one out of every three deaths in women. 

3. Women who have hypertension, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes during pregnancy are at a higher risk of a heart attack in the future. 

Women who experienced complications related to developing high blood pressure or hypertension during pregnancy had a 63% increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease later in life, as stated by research funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

According to that same study, researchers found that early screenings and monitoring in four target areas  – blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels and body mass index – could provide even more personalized targets to help delay or possibly prevent future cardiovascular events among women. 

4. Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is an umbrella term that includes multiple conditions. 

Some of the most common conditions in women include:  

  • Coronary artery disease  
  • Arrhythmia  
  • Broken heart syndrome 
  • Cardiomyopathy  
  • Congenital heart defects  
  • Disease of heart valves  

5. You don’t have to have a history of heart disease to experience heart problems.  

To be clear, family history does increase risk, but so do factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, physical inactivity and high cholesterol. That is why you must live as healthy a life as possible – this includes eating healthily, exercising regularly and not smoking.   

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