Heart attacks are the leading cause of death in men and women. Previously, most of the research on heart disease was done on men. Now, new research is showing that heart attack warning signs for women are different than those for men. Some of the warning signs for women:
Pain in the jaw
Pain or pressure in the chest
Overwhelming feeling of fatigue or exhaustion
Indigestion or heartburn
Knife like feeling in the shoulder or back
A feeling of icy cold air that stings the lungs when taking a deep breath
Nausea or vomiting
Radiating pain from the chest to the arms may not occur in women as often as it does in men.
These signs and symptoms are more subtle than the obvious "crushing pain" often associated with heart attacks. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart--a condition called small vessel heart disease. According to Mayo Clinic, " many women tend to show up in the emergency rooms after much heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack".
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women 65 and older. It is the second leading cause of death for women 45 to 65. In addition to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, these three risk factors also play a role in the development of heart disease in women:
1. Metabolic syndrome (a combination of fat around the abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high triglycerides) has a greater impact on women than on men.
2. Mental stress and depression affect women's hearts more than men's.
3. Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels.
Women can reduce their risk of heart disease by:
Exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day 4 to 5 days a week.
Maintaining a healthy weight.
Eating a diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and salt.