Women’s Unique Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for approximately one in every four deaths. Much like it is for men, the key for women is to prioritize a heart healthy lifestyle.

“Limiting and reducing risk factors is ultimately the most important thing,” said CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs cardiologist Dr. Nazneen Tata. “When I say lifestyle, it includes diet, exercise, not smoking and limiting alcohol use, because it really all comes under that.”

How To Manage Your Heart Disease Risk With A Heart Healthy Lifestyle

Routine exercise, a heart healthy diet and limiting alcohol and tobacco use can go a long way toward preventing common risk factors for heart disease such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and obesity. However, they aren’t the only risk factors for women to note. Often overlooked or ignored as a health risk, unchecked stress can also lead to heart complications.

“When I talk about a heart healthy lifestyle, it also means limiting stress,” said Dr. Tata. “In the world we live in, psychological stress is just as important as physical stress. The continuous internal changes that happen in our body when we’re under this kind of sudden or chronic stress has a tremendous toll on our heart health.”

What Are The Early Warning Signs of Heart Disease in Women?

While the impact of heart disease is often the same, women have a unique set of risk factors compared to men. One example is in how heart disease presents. While men often experience heavy or sharp chest pain, women can also present with pain in seemingly unrelated parts of the body.

“With women, what we see sometimes is heart disease is more of an indigestion or heartburn type feeling,” Dr. Tata said. “It doesn’t have to be in the center of your chest and sometimes women feel it lower down on the top part of their belly.”

Other symptoms of heart disease often present in women include pain in the neck, jaw, throat or back, while some women also experience no symptoms. Early detection is one of the most important steps in overcoming heart disease, but not recognizing or understanding the lesser known symptoms can result in later detection for women.

“In terms of heart attacks, our numbers are getting better over the years but in one-year outcomes, women still do worse than men,” said Dr. Tata. “That’s partly because of the late presentation, not recognizing symptoms or maybe not taking it seriously enough because women still tend to be more caregivers rather than focusing on themselves and their own health.”

Dr. Tata is part of the team of leading cardiologists at the CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs Heart Center, which performs life-saving diagnostic procedures, provides one-on-one treatment and helps patients manage heart disease. With a support team including nurses, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, physical therapists, social workers and dietitians, our patients get comprehensive care tailored to their individual health concerns and wellbeing.

To learn more about women’s unique risk factors for heart disease and our wide range of heart services available across the state through the CHI St. Vincent Heart Institute, visit: chistvincent.com/heart