Heart disease is among the top causes of death for women in the United States. As with most diseases, however, early detection and treatment can significantly reduce the risk of heart problems, but that requires vigilance and not downplaying symptoms.
While the disease affects both men and women, certain symptoms may differ between the two populations. Here are eight signs of early heart disease for women to watch for and discuss with their OB/GYN:
Pressure, pain, or discomfort in the chest is the most common sign of heart danger in women. Some may describe the sensation differently: pinching, burning, crushing, tightness, or strain. Generally, the sensation lasts more than a couple minutes, at which time, it’s a good idea to visit the doctor. However, according to the Mayo Clinic, chest discomfort “is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom,” especially for women, and they can still have heart problems without chest pain.
Chronic coughing can be a symptom of many physical ailments. If a woman knows she is at a risk for heart disease, though, a long-lasting cough—especially one that produces white or pink mucus—could indicate heart failure, according to WebMd.com. As the article continues, “This happens when the heart can’t keep up with the body’s demands, causing blood to leak back into the lungs.”
Feeling Dizzy or Lightheaded
If a person rapidly and inexplicably experiences a feeling of faintness or dizziness, that could be a sign their blood pressure dropped when their heart wasn’t able to pump properly. This is a particularly concerning symptom when it is accompanied by shortness of breath or chest discomfort.
Nausea, Heartburn or Indigestion
Women are more likely to experience nausea, heartburn or indigestion symptoms than men, according to WebMd.com. While these can also indicate nothing more than an upset stomach, women should keep an eye on these symptoms, especially if they have other symptoms on the list or are known to be at risk for heart problems.
Throat or Jaw Pain
If a woman experiences a chest pain or pressure that spreads to other areas in the upper body—including the neck, throat or jaw—she should seek medical attention. According to Medical News Today, this sort of non-specific upper body pain can start in a single area and progressively spread to the others or come on all at once.
Becoming Easily Exhausted
Lots of factors can cause a person to feel exhaustion. If abnormal fatigue starts to become pervasive without any other notable cause, it could be a symptom of heart failure or coronary artery disease. If a woman also finds it difficult to complete simple activities that don’t require much exertion without feeling exhausted, that is a reason for concern, as that symptom is commonly reported in the weeks leading up to a heart attack, states Medical News Today.
Excessive sweating or feeling cold and clammy for no obvious reason is another symptom of heart problems many women experience. If it comes on suddenly and is accompanied with any other symptoms, it is important to go directly to the hospital or call 911, as it could signal a heart attack.
Heart palpitations, or a heartbeat that is rapid or irregular, can be caused by several factors: anxiety, nerves, dehydration, or caffeine intake. Others, however, signal a heart problem, such as atrial fibrillation, which requires medical attention. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, “It’s important to note how your palpitations feel, how often they occur, and what you’re doing when you experience them.” If a person’s heart begins to beat rapidly or irregularly when they are resting or relaxing, that should be addressed.
Taking Care of Yourself
According to the Mayo Clinic, women’s symptoms are more likely than men’s to occur when they are resting or even sleeping, and mental stress can also trigger heart attack symptoms. If you are experiencing one or several of these symptoms, please call Dr. Eule’s office to schedule an appointment 303-770-0665.