Heart Disease in Women: Symptoms and Risk Factors

Sweating, nausea, dizziness and unusual fatigue may not sound like typical heart attack symptoms, but they are common for women. Pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest is not always severe or even the most prominent heart attack symptom, particularly in women. These symptoms may occur more often when women are resting or even asleep.

“That is why it’s important for women to understand their unique symptoms and work to reduce their risk of heart disease,” says Elizabeth Leschensky, family nurse practitioner at Mayo Clinic Health System Franciscan Healthcare in Waukon.

Certain factors play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women than the traditional risks of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. “Women should control traditional risk factors as well as these to help prevent heart disease,” says Leschensky.

Those factors include diabetes, mental stress, depression, smoking, inactivity and hyperlipidemia. Conditions including menopause, broken heart syndrome and pregnancy complications may also increase a woman’s risk for heart disease.

Leschensky stresses that women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. “Women tend to show up in emergency rooms after heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those usually associated with a heart attack and because women may downplay their symptoms,” she says.

Anyone who experiences these symptoms or thinks they are having a heart attack should call for emergency medical help immediately.