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What are the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women?

Updated on October 20, 2016

How Common is Heart Disease in Women?

Heart disease has long been considered a killer of men. But the truth is women are getting heart disease at increasingly alarming rates. In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death and disability in women.

As women age, it only makes sense the risk of heart disease increases. But it does not have too. So with that being said, lets us take a more progressive approach; educate ourselves about the symptoms and start working toward prevention.

Take it from Real Women

Signs of Heart Disease in Women

If you are constantly feeling tired and drained even when you have had a good nights sleep, this may be a sign of heart disease. Just what are the common signs and symptoms of heart disease in women? Some of the signs listed below are the same for women as men but many are not, in fact, some are unique to women. Educate yourself about the heart disease facts:

  • One of the first signs, a woman with heart disease will notice, is shortness of breath. This may occur in many ways from having trouble breathing during exercise or sleep to having shortness of breath when in a stressful situation. The heart cannot supply enough oxygen to the lungs causing them to build up fluid.

  • Women with heart problems often have sleeping problems. This may be from a buildup of fluid on the lungs waking them up in a need to cough or experiencing a feeling of not being able to breath. Some say that heart problems lead to Sleep Apnea and may experience chest pain during sleep. Lack of exercise is directly linked to sleeping problems which in turn attributes to heart disease. You could say that it is one big circle.
  • Women with heart disease experience digestive issues because the digestive system is receiving less blood. The result being a lack of appetite and nausea.
  • Women with heart problems often experience feeling of nervousness or anxiety for no apparent reason. Panic attacks are common with woman and heart disease. Think about it, all of your major organs are being deprived oxygen, your physical health seems to be failing; it only makes sense that this affects the nerves.
  • Some studies show that women with heart disease are more likely to experience migraine headaches. The exact reason for the connection is not known at this time.
  • Chest pain in women is less severe than in men having a heart attack. They are more likely to have a heavy or tight feeling, a burning (often mistaken for heartburn) or a burn between the shoulders. The pain is also more likely to go to the jaw, neck and shoulders or in the arms. All this can be due to an overall lack of or limited oxygen to the heart.

Causes of Heart Disease In Women

There are many causes of heart disease in women listed below. Some of us are pre-disposed to the risk factors making the risks higher in certain individuals. These genetic factors do not in any way have to be a life sentence. Let's first educate ourselves on what they are and then later we can discuss prevention.

  • High blood pressure raises your chances of getting heart disease and heart attack significantly. In the normal adult woman, the systolic reading should be between 120 and 130 and the diastolic reading between 80 and 90.
  • High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors of heart disease in women. Like most of us who have tested high for cholesterol, you understand that it is a fatty substance carried in our bloodstream. Normally, the liver makes enough cholesterol for the body to use; the problem arises when we consume extra cholesterol in the foods that we eat. The result being a build up of plaque in our arteries, limiting or even blocking the flow of blood.
  • If you have diabetes, you are at risk for heart disease. Heart problems are the leading cause of death among people with diabetes.
  • Being overweight in itself can cause higher cholesterol and blood pressure which increases the chances of coronary artery disease.

  • Smoking cigarettes increases your chances of heart disease because it increases your heart rate and and tightens the arteries; raising your blood pressure and throws off the timing of heartbeats. This makes your heart work more than it should. Nicotine, tar other chemicals found in cigarettes such as carbon monoxide are bad for the heart leading to a build up of plaque.
  • Lack of exercise makes woman at risk for heart disease more than people who exercise regularly, because it burns calories, helping to lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Even moderate exercise strengthens heart muscles if done regularly.
  • Though we can get many good things from our families, we may also get our families risk of heart disease. So if your parents or siblings have had heart problems before the age of 55, then you are at a much greater risk of developing it. Menopause also plays a part in heart disease because changes in hormonal levels may inhibit the break down of fat more; thus, increasing the chances of blood clots forming.
  • As we grow older, our hearts do not work as well as they used to. The walls of the heart thicken and the arteries become less flexible so the heart pumps less and less blood to the muscles of the body.

Prevention of Heart Disease in Women

There are many medications available in treatment for women and heart disease. But I have chosen to discuss lifestyle changes instead. If you are truly interested in changing your lifestyle I recommend reading the book to the right. .

The following are heart health tips for women in the prevention of heart disease:

  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a day. Buy a gym membership and consult with a trainer. Work on a plan that is right for you. If you have a physical disability preventing you from moving, ask your doctor to refer you to a physical therapist. They will be able to set up a physical activity program based on your capabilities. Making this a daily reginum can actually prevent and reverse heart disease.
  • Consult with your doctor on the healthy weight for you. Make realistic weight loss goals that you can achieve. I can almost guarantee that as the weight disappears, so do many of the aches and pains
  • Take steps to quit smoking. There are numerous programs that you can join to quit smoking. Educate yourself on the triggers that make you smoke and change them.
  • Eat a heart health diet that is low in saturated fats. I suggest changing your diet slowly. Identify those pesky foods that you should not be eating. The more that you eat the foods that are good for you, the more you will crave them.

  • There may also be some herbal supplements that may help you with controlling your high blood pressure or cholesterol. Start to read and research for yourself or consult a Natural Doctor. Don't be afraid to ask your medical doctor what they recommend. You just might be surprised. My doctor actually recommended Vitamin D, CoQ10 and Flaxseed.
  • Though I usually advocate for a natural approach, when a preventing heart disease the services of a physician are imperative. Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year with a simple blood test. If it is high, work daily to lower it and know your own risk factors.
  • Educate yourself on the latest home gadgets that may help you monitor your own health.

After reading this article, are you are risk for heart disease?

See results

Final Conclusion

If you are a woman, read all that you can on how to improve your heart health. If you are in one of the risk groups posted in above, please pay attention to your own body seek help. Just a little prevention can literally add years to your health.

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Research Center for Women's Heart and Vascular Health


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    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      5 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Happy you learned something new.

    • Chantelle Porter profile image

      Chantelle Porter 

      5 years ago from Ann Arbor

      I had no idea migraines were linked to heart disease. Thank you for mentioning this. Time to go exercise!

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      8 years ago from Brazil

      Hi Lipnancy,

      This is something that is often on my mind. My father died of a heart attack when he was 42. It was his third attack. For so long it was thought that it was only a male disease. Your hub will help so many women.

      Thank you.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      @DDE It tends to be something that we know in our head, but we choose to ignore.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      8 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Written in detail and so true in every word mentioned women must carefully pay attention to such symptoms.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      @alexandry Thanks so much. I am working on some more heart articles.

    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Farricelli 

      8 years ago

      Very informative hub that raises awareness of the problem, voted up!

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      There is a lot more to come on this subject. Thanks for stopping by.

    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      8 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Very good hub. Thanks for sharing the info with us!

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I feel that many woman really do not know the facts. And in this case knowledge is power.

    • vnsatakopan profile image

      Dr.Vangeepuram Navaneetham Satakopan 

      8 years ago from Chennai, India

      Great hub. Studies show that women are less likely to survive a heart attack. This is probably due to the mindset of the medical profession which doesn't believe that women can get heart attacks. Hopefully, this situation would change in future.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This is really very helpful. Our family has a history of heart problems and I am afraid I might have it too.

      Thanks for sharing this information. :-)

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      I am working on one that goes more in to depth about the female heart attack symptoms. Hope that you are able to read.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      @everythingdazzles I hope so too. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      @Midget38 Oh Thank you. I have some other articles that I am working on for heart disease so stay tuned for more.

    • stillwaters707 profile image


      8 years ago from Texas

      Thank you for this necessary hub. More women need to be aware of these symptoms. The headaches and pain between the shoulders can be misleading. However, with more knowledge, more can be aware of when they need to seek attention. You possibly saved many lives with this hub.

    • everythingdazzles profile image


      8 years ago from Houston

      Very well laid out explanation of heart disease. Hopefully this will be a helpful aid to many women.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 

      8 years ago from Singapore

      This is an extremely useful and well-written hub, Lipnancy. Thanks for sharing it. I do so as well, to make others aware of this disease in women.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Sorry to hear that. I honestly did not know all this information until I wrote this article. I am so glad that I did.

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      8 years ago from Neverland

      i was diagnosed with abnormal heartbeat when i was a kid. i dont know what happened but im doing fine..just always feeling tired doinf some simple work and seems my right chest is bigger than my left.

    • Mama Kim 8 profile image

      Sasha Kim 

      8 years ago

      Wonderfully informative hub!! I will most certainly be passing this one along to all the lovely ladies in my life. Thank you!

    • Lipnancy profile imageAUTHOR

      Nancy Yager 

      8 years ago from Hamburg, New York

      Good for you. I am glad they could help you.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 

      8 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Great helpful hub for all lady hubbers. I've had heart palpitations for year but at 60 they began to get uncontrollable that's when I start seeing a heart doctor. And I was told have a tiny hole in my that heart where beat gets into and can't find it's out until emergence doctors give me medications. My Heart Dr. did a small operation and now the palpitations are rare

      Voted up awesome and Interesting, Joyce.


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