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What To Know About Heart Disease In Women

Medically reviewed by Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC · Cardiology

Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Dec 04, 2022

What To Know About Heart Disease In Women

What should you know about heart disease in women? The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 6 percent of American women over 20 have coronary heart disease or coronary artery disease. And this risk of heart disease increases with age.

The terms “women” and “men” will be used frequently in this article to reflect how people have traditionally been classified according to gender. But your gender identity may not correspond to the risk factors, symptoms, and signs of heart disease. Your doctor can better explain how your particular circumstances will affect diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment.

About heart disease in women

Symptoms of heart attack in females

An artery supplying blood to your heart becomes blocked during a heart attack, which is also known as a myocardial infarction. If enough blood does not reach your heart, it can damage and eventually kill the affected heart tissue, which increases your risk of developing heart failure and other potentially fatal complications.

Women are more prone than men to experience non-traditional heart attack symptoms, and these symptoms also tend to manifest gradually, which may account for why they may not pay a heart attack as much attention.

Some of the most common heart attack symptoms for women include:

  • Women often feel tightness or pressure in their chests rather than the more extreme chest pain that males frequently experience In some cases, however, there may be no chest pain at all.
  • Strong or unusual exhaustion that makes you feel like you have the flu and may come before other symptoms, frequently without any throat, jaw, or chest pain
  • There may be pain, stiffness, or tingling in one or both arms.
  • Upper back pain that could be tingling, pressure-like, or burning
  • Feeling unsteady or lightheaded
  • Feeling dizzy and queasy
  • Ankles, feet, or legs feeling swollen: Blood can back up in your legs, ankles, and feet if you have congestive heart failure. This is because one or both of your heart’s lower chambers are unable to pump blood adequately.
  • Gaining weight: Heart failure can result in excess fluid in the body, which can cause fast weight gain and swelling in the ankles, feet, or legs, as well as occasionally around the stomach.
  • Difficulty sleeping: We advise sleeping on your right side as it may be the key to a healthier heart as studies suggest it reduces pressure on the heart and stabilizes your blood pressure and heart rate. Both sides are not equally beneficial when it comes to side sleeping due to the fact that your body is not symmetrical.
  • The feeling that your heart is beating quickly (heart palpitations)
  • Coughing: Although most people think of coughing as a common symptom of lung or respiratory problems, its connection to heart failure sometimes goes unnoticed. This is known as a cardiac cough, and persons with congestive heart failure frequently experience it.
  • Wheezing: When you wheeze when you exhale and inhale, you may have a more serious breathing problem. Expiratory wheezing alone frequently indicates a mild airway obstruction, while inspiratory wheezing happens when you inhale. In some people with asthma, you can only hear wheezing during the inspiratory phase.
  • Sweating: Night sweats are another typical sign of cardiac problems in women.
  • Lightheadedness: Due to the heart’s limited ability to receive oxygen, angina pectoris causes acute chest discomfort and disorientation.
  • Indigestion: Heart attack signs and symptoms include pressure, tightness, discomfort, or an uncomfortable feeling in your arms or chest that may spread to your neck, jaw, or back, as well as nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or stomach pain. Heartburn itself sometimes accompanies other heart attack symptoms.
  • Anxiety: Heart palpitations and anxiety. Heart palpitations brought on by anxiety make you feel as though your heart is racing, fluttering, beating, or missing a beat. Your heartbeat can quicken in response to particular stressful situations (excessive or persistent worry).
  • Fainting: Fainting can occur when your blood pressure or heart rate suddenly drops and you quickly fall.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Patients should seek medical help if they experience chest pain or discomfort, whether they do so initially through their general care physician or a cardiologist.

If you experience any of the warning indications of a heart attack, such as, head to the hospital right away:

  • Chest pain, pressure, heaviness, or tightness: Don’t try to diagnose the chest pain yourself or ignore it. Your treatment will depend on the precise cause of the pain. If your chest pain is new, changing, or otherwise unexplained, seek help from a healthcare provider.
  • Sudden, excruciating arm pain: Back, arm, or shoulder pain that manifests quickly, becomes particularly intense, or is accompanied with chest pressure, fullness, or squeezing may signal a heart attack.
  • Breathing difficulty: Experiencing breathing difficulties is always a medical issue. However, being mildly winded from regular activity, such as exercise, is an exception to the rule.
  • Becoming unconscious: These include sudden bewilderment, disorientation, or stupor, and are referred to as altered mental state or changed mental status. Unconsciousness or any other sudden change in mental status must be handled as a medical emergency.
  • Severe perspiration or nausea: Immediately seek medical help if you suddenly start to sweat more than usual, sweating interferes with your regular activities, or if you experience lightheadedness, chest pain, or nausea along with heavy perspiration.

Key Takeaways

Coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease, is the most common type of heart disease in both men and women. It develops gradually over time when plaque builds up in the arteries that supply your heart muscle with blood. Heart disease is much more common in women than many people realize. In fact, it is the leading cause of death for women.

As many women with heart disease don’t exhibit any symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as you experience any symptoms. Your doctor can check for heart disease and treat you before any heart damage occurs. Connect with your doctor early to assess your risk of heart disease and how you may lower this risk. 

Learn more about Heart Disease here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Lauren Labrador, MD, FPCP, DPCC


Written by Hello Doctor Medical Panel · Updated Dec 04, 2022

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