Cardiovascular disease is a serious issue for many adults in the U.S. For women over age 25, cardiovascular disease is the number one killer, and it doesn’t discriminate based on race or ethnicity. According to The Cleveland Clinic, the death rate from cardiovascular disease has decreased among men, but for women, the potentially fatal disease is continuing to increase. One reason cardiovascular disease in women may be overlooked, is the lack of education surrounding signs and symptoms which can lead to warning signs being ignored. Approximately 1 in 3 women don’t consider cardiovascular disease to be a leading health issue today, and many consider diseases such as certain cancers to be much more predominant and serious.
Cardiovascular disease is often associated with having symptoms of severe chest pain or discomfort. While these may be typical symptoms for men, symptoms for women are often different, and tend to appear much later in life. For women, symptoms of a heart attack or heart disease can include:
- Severe pain or discomfort in the back, left arm, or chest
- Increased and unusual rapid heartbeat or heart palpitations
- Nausea, unusual fatigue or extreme dizziness
- Shortness of breath or weakness
- Sudden sweating or sweating for unusual reasons
These symptoms can often be associated with something less serious, causing women to not address them early enough, and put themselves at a greater risk as time goes on. Additionally, specific heart problems tend to affect women more than men, though each can still be a risk for both genders. Some heart problems that prevalent in women include:
- Heart Failure: the heart is unable to pump blood through the body at the level it should. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in feet, legs, and ankles
- Severe fatigue
- Arrhythmia (Irregular Heartbeat): a heartbeat that is too slow, fast, or irregular. Often not a serious issue, but when paired with other symptoms of heart disease, can be serious.
- Atherosclerosis: a condition due to severe plaque build up in the arteries, causing arteries to narrow and harden. The plaque build up can break apart over time, causing blood clots that could potentially block blood flow to the heart and lead to heart attack.
- Atrial Fibrillation (Afib): a specific type of arrhythmia that increases the potential for blood to clot due to the heart not pumping at the rate it should. Symptoms can include:
- Heart flutters
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Heart Valve Disease: can be caused by a birth defect, infection, or older age. Affects the valves that control blood flow to the heart causing the heart to work harder in order to pump blood. Heart Valve Disease can potentially lead to:
- Heart failure
- Blood clots
- Cardiac arrest
While cardiovascular disease in women can be common, it can also be manageable if detected early and monitored correctly. If you experience symptoms related to any of these forms of cardiovascular disease, be sure to seek immediate medical attention.