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Although heart disease is the primary cause of death for both men and women—in the U.S. and worldwide—cardiac issues affect male and female patients in different ways.

Men  often describe the sensation of cardiac arrest as “an elephant sitting on their chest.” Women, on the other hand, are less likely to experience chest pressure during a heart attack. 

At Inspira Health, we aim to educate women about their cardiovascular health to ensure they understand the risks, symptoms and early warning signs that lead to heart disease. Whether you seek prevention techniques or advanced treatment options, our multidisciplinary cardiac care team is here to help. 

Our Approach to Women’s Heart Health 

Several factors, such as obesity and hypertension, impact both men and women. Some risk factors are behavioral and can be reduced by making changes to things like your diet and lifestyle habits. Other factors, such as pregnancy and menopause, are often out of your control but can still contribute to your overall risk of cardiovascular complications. 

Here are the most common risk factors to look out for:  

  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)  
  • High cholesterol  
  • Stress, anxiety and depression  
  • Smoking
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Family history of heart disease 
A woman making a heart sign with her hands

Heart Attack Warning Signs in Women 

When your arteries narrow from a buildup of fat, or plaque, your heart doesn’t get the oxygen it needs to function properly, resulting in a heart attack. Signs of a heart attack are often more subtle in women than in men, leading some women to downplay their symptoms or misconstrue them for other, less severe ailments. In some cases, sufferers don’t experience any symptoms at all—this is known as a “silent” heart attack, and it is common among women. 

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 and seek medical attention right away:  

  • Pain, pressure, tightness or discomfort in your chest  
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms  
  • Sudden shortness of breath  
  • Jaw and/or back pain  
  • Heartburn or indigestion  
  • Cold sweats, nausea, vomiting and/or light-headedness  
  • Severe weakness or fatigue 

While these warning signs are universal, women are more likely than men to experience particular symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and jaw or back pain. 

How Women Can Prevent Heart Disease 

You can’t change your genes or family history, but you can adjust your lifestyle to protect your heart. Understanding your risk factors, eating a balanced diet and getting plenty of exercise are vital when it comes to keeping your heart strong. 

Men and women alike should try these strategies to maintain their cardiovascular health and prevent heart disease:  

  • Quit smoking 
  • Limit alcohol consumption  
  • Manage stress  
  • Maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise  
  • Manage other health conditions (high blood pressure/cholesterol, diabetes, etc.) 

Why Choose Cardiac Partners at Cooper and Inspira?

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