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Women & Heart Disease

Women and Heart Attacks

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, causing one in three deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association. Over 430,000 women have heart attacks each year in the United States. Women under the age of 50 are twice as likely to die from a heart attack as men. Because symptoms of heart attack in women are milder than in men, many women are likely to miss the signs of heart attack. Saint Francis Medical Center’s Heart Hospital in Cape Girardeau is committed to raising awareness of women’s unique risk factors for heart disease.

Heart Attack Risk Factors for Women

Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Mental stress and depression
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Low estrogen levels after menopause

Signs of Heart Attack in Women

Women show different signs of heart attack than men. The symptoms are usually milder. Approximately 70% of women will mistake extreme weakness for the flu rather than a sign of heart attack because the weakness is not accompanied by chest pain. In general, women should watch for the following heart attack signs:

  • Chest pain/pressure
  • Weakness
  • Neck, jaw and/or shoulder pain
  • Pressure or pain in lower chest, upper back or upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Sweating
  • Extreme fatigue

Prevention

Since the signs of heart attack may be milder in women, prevention is the key to avoiding cardiovascular disease. Saint Francis offers the follow advice:

  • Maintain a healthy weight and diet
  • Don’t smoke
  • Monitor blood pressure regularly
  • Take a health risk assessment
  • Get a heart and health screening