The symptoms of heart problems in women can be unique and rather different from the traditional chest-clutching pain that we have become conditioned to expect from heart attacks and other heart related problems.
One of the major problems with female heart disease is that women tend not to view it as a significant health risk, even though cardiovascular disease accounts for 43% of all female deaths.
Another problem is that a diagnosis of heart disease among women is usually made much later in life than it is for men. Part of the reason is the fact that prior to menopause, the hormone estrogen seems to have a protective effect on cardiovascular health of women.
However it is also true that symptoms of heart problems in women such as angina, often do not receive the attention they should from health care providers, which exacerbates matters.
According to statistics, women develop heart disease symptoms about 10 years later than men, on an average. The commonly seen symptoms of heart problems in women; in other words coronary heart disease, that could precede an actual heart attack and which you should know about and look out for are –
- Women may experience unusual or unexplained fatigue or tiredness
- There could be digestion problems
- Sleep disturbances could add to the tiredness
- There could be shortness of breath
- General feelings of anxiety etc
- In one study, more than one of these symptoms was observed to occur for about one month before an actual heart attack. Only 30% of the women who participated in the study reported the chest discomfort that we tend to associate with heart disease. The kind of discomfort experienced was a tightness, fullness or pressure; and sharpness or tingling.
Any of the above symptoms of heart problems in women should be reported and evaluated by a health care professional. This is particularly important for women who have risk factors that put them more at risk of heart disease, such as high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia or diabetes, or if they smoke or have a family history of heart disease.
While we spoke of the symptoms of heart problems in women such as coronary heart disease above, the symptoms of an actual heart attack are –
- There could be feelings of weakness or lethargy
- Unusual fatigue or tiredness could be experienced
- A woman could break out in a cold sweat
- She may even have nausea
- Shortness of breast is also a commonly seen symptom of female heart attack
- There could be dizziness or light headedness
- The heartbeat could become irregular
- There could be a burning sensation in the upper abdomen or the chest
- There could be pain or a feeling of pressure in the upper part of the chest or even the back. The pressure, discomfort or pain may come and go
- There could be discomfort or pain in both or either arm
Thus it is clear that symptoms of heart problems in women can be subtle and less obvious than those of men; which makes it all the more important for women to be vigilant about them.