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What Women Need to Know About Heart Disease

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States?

Although it’s often thought of as a man’s disease, heart disease kills roughly the same number of men and women each year.

What you might not know, however, is that women experience heart disease and heart attack symptoms differently than men do. In fact, nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms.


Heart attack symptoms in women include the classic signs of pressure or tightness in the chest, although women don’t always feel chest pain like men typically do. Females are more likely to experience:

  • Pain in other areas of the body, including the arms, neck, jaw, back, abdomen or throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Sudden hot flash and sweating
  • Irregular, “fluttering” heartbeat
  • Tingling in the extremities
  • Lightheadedness, fainting or dizziness

If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately!

Risk Factors

Although many risk factors are similar for both women and men, women may be affected differently by the following:

  1. Smoking: Cigarettes are 25% more likely to cause heart disease for females, possibly due to their tendency to absorb more chemicals from smoking than men do.
  2. Diabetes: Women with diabetes have a greater chance of getting heart disease than their male counterparts.
  3. Level of inactivity: Being inactive is a major cause of heart disease.
  4. Depression: Studies have found females with depression are three times more likely to develop heart disease than men with emotional difficulties.

For more information on Southeastern Med’s heart and vascular services, call us at 740.439.8000.

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