heart disease in women

Heart Disease in Women – Dec. 1, 2020

A heart attack is a life-threatening condition caused by a lack of adequate blood flow to the heart. Women are less likely than men to survive their first heart attack. This may be because the symptoms differ between men and women—it is actually more common for women to experience mild or no symptoms at all. Women also have unique risk factors for heart disease, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). 

At One Community Health, we want you to know that being aware of the symptoms of a heart attack specific to women could save your life, or the life of someone you know. 

Life-Threatening Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

A common myth is that heart attacks always occur very suddenly and dramatically. But research shows that many women have symptoms for several weeks before the onset of a heart attack. Symptoms may be constant or intermittent. It is crucial for any woman experiencing any of the following symptoms to see a doctor. Heart attacks can be lethal, regardless of whether symptoms are mild or severe.

1. Chest pain

The most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain or discomfort. It is often described as tightness, pressure, squeezing, or aching. However, it is not uncommon for women to experience a heart attack without having any chest discomfort. 

2. Fatigue

Women often experience extreme fatigue in the weeks preceding a heart attack, or fatigue may begin right before the event. Even simple, everyday activities that do not normally require much effort can lead to exhaustion.

3. Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath, especially when experienced along with fatigue or chest pain, may be a sign of heart problems. Some women feel short of breath when lying down, while feeling better when they sit upright.

4. Stomach problems

Some women report feeling digestive problems before a heart attack, including:

  • Indigestion
  • Stomach pain or pressure
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


5. Weakness

Feeling weak or shaky is commonly experienced by women who are having a heart attack. This weakness or shaking may be accompanied by anxiety, fainting, or feeling dizzy or lightheaded.

6. Sweating

Excessive sweating (without another obvious cause) is a common heart attack symptom in women. Feeling cold and clammy can also be an indication of serious heart disease in women.

7. Trouble sleeping

Nearly half of women report a change in sleeping habits before a heart attack. These sleep issues may include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking frequently throughout the night
  • Feeling tired regardless of getting plenty of sleep


8. Upper body pain

Upper body pain associated with heart disease in women is usually non-specific, meaning it is hard to pinpoint exactly where the pain is. The pain may be mild, beginning in one area and gradually spread to other areas, or it may be acute and sudden. Areas that women report feeling pain with a heart attack include:

  • Neck
  • Jaw
  • Upper back 
  • One or both arms


Treatment for Heart Disease in Women

One Community Health in Sacramento recognizes the unique health needs women have. From reproductive services and sexual health to heart health and everything in between—our compassionate, highly-trained staff provide a wide range of women’s health services, to help you lead a healthy and productive life, regardless of your ability to pay. We accept walk-ins, or you can make an appointment by calling 916-443-3299.

Photo by Damir Bosnjak on Unsplash

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