The Scary Signs of Heart Disease that Many Women Ignore

Free community forum on Women and Heart Disease at El Camino Hospital on Wednesday, February 6th.

Women experience heart disease very differently than men do. Where a man might have crushing chest pain that indicates a heart attack, a woman may only feel a little nauseated or start sweating. Confusing? Yes, because most of us associate a heart attack or heart disease with crushing chest pain. And yet, for women, the signs of heart disease can be so mild that we ignore them. 

What Should Women Watch out For?

  • A feeling of tightness in the chest
  • Nausea
  • Sudden sweating and fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Shoulder or neck pain 
  • Pain in the left arm 
  • Chest pain with exercise or activity, especially if it improves with rest


It's Confusing

These signs and symptoms could be from any number of different conditions. However, if they persist or they only occur with exercise or activity and then improve with rest, it's time to see your health care provider. Pay attention to any worrisome signs and symptoms and contact your health care provider or get to an Emergency Room. 

A Typical Scenario

Most women don't think that this will ever happen to them. They think that because they're too young or too busy, that they can't possibly be having a heart attack. That's the point of this video featuring Elizabeth Banks.

What Tests Should Women be Asking For? 

  • Baseline Cholesterol screening
  • Blood Pressure
  • Fasting Glucose
  • C-Reactive Protein

What Should We do to  Lower our Risks of Heart Disease?

There are some risk factors that are out of our control, such as family history. However, it’s not completely out of your hands. You CAN make small differences that can save your life.

  • A healthy diet really does reduce your risk of heart disease. 
  • One area that always surprises my patients is how eating too many carbs can impact triglyceride levels and lead to higher total cholesterol and LDL. 
  • Eat more Heart healthy foods: Almonds, oatmeal, wild salmon, whole grains
  • Limit Red Meat and high cholesterol foods
  • Substitute fish and leaner plant based proteins
  • Exercise to maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking


If you want to learn more about women and heart disease, please join me and Dr. Catherine Collings at El Camino Hospital on Wednesday, February 6th from 6 to 7:30 pm. We'll be leading a forum with lots more information on women and heart disease and what you can do to live a longer, healthier life. 

These events fill up fast, so please RSVP through this link. I hope to see you there.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robin February 03, 2013 at 06:26 AM
Back pain is also possible. If you don't feel right, call 911 and go right to the hospital. You CAN demand tests to find out if you have had/are having a heart issue. You can choose to not be discharged until you have these tests. I was in an ER once where a man was being treated for a heart attack with multiple tests. Young, healthy woman with nontraditional symptoms was told she had heartburn and should just have some maalox. She refused to leave until they did heart tests. Which they delayed. Meanwhile, man had heartburn. Doctors were shocked to find out that the young, healthy woman with back pain actually was having a heart attack. But she had to DEMAND the tests and be a real pain to get them. You have to stand up for yourself or have somebody advocate for you.
Nurse Barb February 03, 2013 at 04:12 PM
You are so right! You know your own body better than anyone and when there's something that's not right, you have to trust your instincts and keep pushing until you get the answers you need. Many times, people have unusual symptoms that still need to be investigated. Thanks for your comment.
Claudia Cruz February 04, 2013 at 05:30 AM
Is there an age when women are more likely to get heart disease?
Robin February 04, 2013 at 06:38 AM
Thought this was interesting...one woman whose doctor told her she was fine but she went to the hospital anyway...and another who is a nurse who points out that you don't know you have heart disease until you have heart disease! http://www.freep.com/article/20130203/COL26/302030069/Kristen-Jordan-Shamus-Beaumont-support-group-encourages-heart-disease-patients-share-their-experiences-fears


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