Understanding pre-heart attack risk factors in women

Contribution: Rachna Arya


Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the single biggest cause of death in men and women. It affects both men and women of all ages and ethnicities in roughly equal numbers. However, most women are unaware that they are at risk. They don’t know either Pre heart attack Warning signs that are unique to their gender and different from those experienced by most men.

This post will provide insight on how to recognize heart attack symptoms in women.

Pre Heart Attack Symptoms for Women

The most common heart attack symptoms in women, like men, are some type of general chest pain, pressure, or discomfort.

Chest pain may be felt by:

  • heaviness
  • the intensity
  • stress
  • fiery
  • numbness
  • fullness
  • holding on

As in men, the pain may last more than a few minutes or come and go. However, observational studies indicate that chest pain is not always severe and may not be the most noticeable symptom in most women.

Symptoms unrelated to chest pain are more common in women than in men, such as:

  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder blades, upper back or abdomen
  • shortness of breath
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Extreme weakness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • sweat
  • Mild headache or dizziness
  • unusual tiredness
  • heartburn

These symptoms can be very subtle and not as noticeable as the chest pain usually associated with a heart attack. The cause can be attributed to excessive blockage in the small arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Compared to men, women show symptoms more often while resting or sleeping.

Heart disease risk factors for women

Several factors like high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity affect women and men equally. But there are some additional factors that can put women at higher risk, such as:

  • Diabetes – Women with diabetes are twice as likely to develop heart disease as men with diabetes.
  • Stress and depression – Psycho-social stress, meaning stress from work, home, financial problems or major life events affects women’s hearts more than men’s.
  • Smoking – Smoking increases the risk of heart disease three times more in women than in men.
  • Inactivity – Studies have shown that lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease.
  • Menopause – Estrogen levels are low when women go through menopause. It increases the risk of heart disease in small blood vessels.
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol – low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol are closely linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Family history of early heart disease – Genetic predisposition appears to be a greater risk factor in women than in men.
  • Inflammatory diseases – Science has shown that women who suffer from autoimmune diseases and chronic low-grade inflammatory conditions are more likely to suffer from a higher risk of heart disease.

Last thought

The bottom line is that women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Women under 65 – especially those with a family history of heart disease – should pay close attention to their heart health.

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