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Heart Disease and Women

Heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, is the leading cause of death in America. Every February, American Heart Month helps raise awareness and further prevention of heart disease.

While many consider heart disease more prevalent in men, more women actually die from it—one of three women in the United States each year, or roughly one death every minute.

Two types of heart disease, coronary microvascular disease (MVD) and broken heart syndrome, are lesser known but pose a specific risk for women. The American Heart Association reports that 64 percent of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease, the most common type of heart disease, showed no previous signs of heart trouble. Because women and men vary in how they present with symptoms, it is important to recognize signs of heart distress beyond chest pain and pain down the left arm.

Silent symptoms of heart attack for women include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Back pain
  • Jaw pain
  • Nausea
  • Lightheadedness

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death for women and fifth for men. Common stroke symptoms include affected speech, numbness on one side of the body, vision trouble, and difficulty with walking and balance.

Unique symptoms of stroke for women include:

  • General weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden change in behavior
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Pain
  • Hiccups

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is a top cause of heart disease and stroke and often presents with no symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention list a number of steps to keep blood pressure at a healthy level. Both women and men can help protect their heart with a healthy diet, regular exercise, and becoming or staying a nonsmoker. Right at Home senior care professionals can help elderly or disabled adults with heart-healthy habits and recovery from cardiovascular conditions including surgery.

Author Beth Lueders

An award-winning journalist who has documented stories in nearly 20 countries, Beth Lueders is an author, writer and speaker who frequently reports on diverse topics, including aging and health issues for both U.S. and international corporations.

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