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Heart disease in women: Understand Causes, Symptoms and Risk Factors

Written byAmatul Ameen

Last updated on : 20 May, 2024

Read time : 12 min

What is Heart Attack?

It is a condition in which blood flow to the heart is restricted due to clots or plaques inside the blood vessel, leading to the death of the heart muscle.

Heart Attack in women 

Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause and signs of heart attack in women, among many other health problems. Heart attack has “symptoms”, which are the best way to catch it soon. Often, we think a heart attack is sudden & without warning, but this is not the case. It comes with unusual, typical signs of a heart attack in women and is silent. 

A “Silent Heart Attack” symptom is more common in women than men. Pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest is the classic symptom common across both men & women. The discomfort is mild to intense and will last for a few minutes. The symptoms do not last for days. Observing them combined with swift action can save a life. 

Few distinct pre-heart attack symptoms in female are

  1. Pain in the jaw, neck, throat and back
  2. Gastrointestinal symptoms like heartburn, indigestion
  3. Nausea (feeling of vomit)
  4. Vomiting
  5. (Extreme tiredness) Fatigue
  6. Breathing problems like shortness of breath

Read more- Natural and home remedies for heart attack prevention

Symptoms of heart attack in women

Symptoms make the disease appear for the patient to feel and discuss with the doctor. But in the case of a heart attack in women, these symptoms are not entirely obvious, which forms the challenging factor. The more significant the number of symptoms, the more the risk of a heart attack. These non-obvious symptoms are called “silent heart attacks”. In a silent heart attack, signs are not obvious, and the doctor gets to know it only after an electrocardiogram as a part of the diagnosis, which is days, weeks or months later.

 A silent heart attack is characterised by

  1. It is more common in women and men.
  2. Young women without chest pain are more likely to die than men with the same criteria.
  3.  It affects women with age less than 65 years.
  4. It is more common in women with diabetes; diabetes makes the person less sensitising to pain; therefore, the symptoms go unnoticed.

How to respond to a suspected heart attack

Few essential things not to ignore if you suspect a heart attack are, 

  • Call the doctor and seek medical help.
  • Do not do any work which requires physical exertion,
  • Always remember the treatments best work within an hour of symptoms’ arrival.
  • Even if you are unsure about symptoms, seek doctor assistance, as they have preventive, diagnostic and treatment methods at their disposal.

The scenario of a heart attack in India 

Indians are prone to developing heart diseases at a young age and are genetically predisposed to heart diseases. In India, around 20 per cent of deaths are due to heart disease. American Indian women are at more risk of heart attack than other women of other origins. The risk factors and signs of heart attack in women include obesity, inadequate physical activity, high blood pressure and diabetes.  

Young women around their twenties to thirties do not experience any signs of a heart attack in women more frequently than older women. It is partly because oestrogen-hormone levels are protective against heart attacks. Women aged 45-65 who got a heart attack are more likely to die within a year than their male counterparts. 

The eight signs of a heart attack in women

Here is the list of signs of a heart attack in women

  1. Chest pain or discomfort in the centre of the chest which prolongs for more than a few minutes or goes on and keeps coming back, are classic signs of heart attack in women.
  2. Numbness, pain and discomfort in the chest region and upper parts of the body like arms, neck, back, stomach and jaws. These are again classic signs of heart attack in women.
  3. Shortness of breath which is accompanied with or without pain in the chest & bouts of cold sweat
  4. Lack of appetite
  5. Nauseating feeling & Vomits. This is not a very common sign of a heart attack in women but may appear in a few women.
  6. Feeling dizzy & lightheaded
  7. Irregular pulse sometimes, rapid 
  8. Severe and unexplained weakness & Fatigue lead to a heart attack.

Factors increasing the risk of heart attack in women

There are several factors that increase the risk of heart attack. For women, there are a few factors that increase the risk after a particular age, like menopause. Let’s explore these factors:

  • Age: As people age, their risk of having a heart attack increases. This is because arteries tend to narrower and stiffer as we age, making it harder for blood to flow through them.
  • Sex: Men are generally at a higher risk of heart attacks than women, especially at a younger age. However, the risk for women increases after menopause.
  • Race or ethnicity: Some races, like African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans, have a higher risk of heart disease compared to others. In the last few decades, the percentage of Indians suffering from heart attacks have increased.
  • Family history: If someone in your family, like your parents or siblings, has had a heart attack, you might be at a higher risk, too. Genetics can play a role in heart health.
  • Obesity: Being overweight or obese puts extra strain on the heart and increases the risk of heart disease.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure can damage arteries and make them more likely to get blocked, leading to a heart attack.
  • High cholesterol: Too much cholesterol in the blood can build up in the arteries, causing them to narrow and increasing the risk of a heart attack.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease because high blood sugar levels can damage blood vessels and nerves that control the heart.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: Not getting enough physical activity can weaken the heart and lead to other risk factors like obesity and high blood pressure.
  • Menopause: After menopause, women’s risk of heart disease increases because estrogen levels drop, affecting cholesterol levels and blood vessel health.
  • Stress: Chronic stress can raise blood pressure and cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking damages the blood vessels and can lead to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack.
  • Depression: People with depression are more likely to have heart problems, although the exact reasons aren’t fully understood. Depression can also lead to unhealthy habits like overeating or smoking, which can further increase heart attack risk.

How to prevent heart attack

Heart diseases are preventable through closely observing the signs of a heart attack in women especially. The measures described will keep your heart and life healthy.

The best way to prevent a heart attack is by avoiding the risk factors that increase the chances of a heart attack.

  1. Adopting a healthy lifestyle by choosing healthy foods that are good for the heart
  2. Stop smoking 
  3. Exercise and stay physically active
  4. Manage stress
  5. Limit alcohol consumption
  6. Ensure an adequate amount of sleep
  7. Keep triglycerides and cholesterol levels low
  8. Manage diabetes

Understanding the risk factors and knowing the signs of heart attack in women, are an important part of disease management, and the doctor can help prevent heart attacks and heart diseases.

Heart disease treatment in women

Heart disease treatment in women is crucial for their health. It’s essential to recognise the sign of a heart attack and the pre heart attack symptoms. Women might experience different symptoms than men, such as unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, or pain in the neck, jaw, or back. If you notice any of these signs, it’s essential to seek medical help immediately. Treatment for heart disease in women may involve lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing stress. Medications and medical procedures may also be necessary to help manage the condition and reduce the risk of complications. Early detection and treatment can greatly improve outcomes for women with heart disease.

Conclusion

Heart attack is the inability of the heart to receive continuous blood supply; the disease does not develop overnight. It is a constant process affected by different factors. A set of signs of heart attack in women are established and help people identify a heart attack. The treatments have come a long way to treat the disease if addressed soon. Further, adopting preventive measures is the best way to avoid and sometimes manage risks. Always stay in touch with a doctor who will help handle the disease properly. Women are at more risk than men of getting a heart attack as they are at risk of a silent heart attack. Avail teleconsultation from our expert doctors on our online pharmacy only when placing an order for medicines. You can also place an order by just downloading our Truemeds app. Get branded as well as generic medicines by uploading your prescription on Truemeds. When placing an order for medicines online through Truemeds, you may save more money by selecting alternative or generic medicine advised by Truemed’s expert doctors. And also, save up to 72% on your purchase and get free home delivery pan India.

Frequently asked questions

Can people in their 20’s have a heart attack?

It is uncommon to experience a heart attack in your 20s. Yes, there are some cases reported across the globe who have got a heart attack in their 20-something years.

Why do fit people get heart attacks?

Intense exercise can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and adrenaline hormone. It leads to plaques present in blood vessels rupturing hence, heart attack.

What are the signs of a mini heart attack?

Pressure like pain in the chest which is more than ten minutes of duration, Pain radiates to arm, neck and jaw, Shortness of breath, Nausea and vomiting, Fainting, Fatigue, Sweating

What is a pre-heart attack?

In men, it is seen as a symptom like pain and numbness in the left arm or side of the chest.

Can ECG always be related to heart attacks?

An ECG can be perfectly normal but still have a heart problem or condition

Are Heart Attack Symptoms Different in Females?

Yes, heart attack symptoms can be different in females compared to males. Women may experience symptoms such as unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, upper back, or abdomen.

What Should I Do If I Suspect a Heart Attack?

If you suspect a heart attack, it’s important to seek medical help right away. While waiting for help to arrive, you should try to stay calm, sit or lie down, and chew and swallow an aspirin if you’re not allergic to it and it’s recommended by your doctor.

How Can I Reduce the Risk of a Heart Attack?

You can reduce the risk of a heart attack by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a balanced diet low in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.

What are early symptoms of a heart attack that everyone should be aware of?

Early symptoms of a heart attack that everyone should be aware of include chest discomfort or pain that may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain; discomfort or pain in other areas of the upper body, such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; lightheadedness; and cold sweats.

What are the common signs of a heart attack?

Common signs of a heart attack include chest discomfort or pain that may feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain; discomfort or pain in other areas of the upper body, such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath; nausea; lightheadedness; and cold sweats.

DisclaimerTruemeds’ sole intention is to ensure that customers have access to information that is accurate & trustworthy. However, the information here should not be used directly and it cannot act as a substitute for the advice of a doctor. The information provided is only to stay informed. The information on side effects, drug interactions or warnings, and alerts are not exhaustive. Please consult your doctor for the right advice on diseases & medication information

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