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Heart Health

Women and Heart Attacks: The Symptoms Are Subtle

www.goredforwomen.org/When you think of a disease that may result in death in women, one of these probably came to mind:

However, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States.  It is responsible for 1 in every 3 female deaths. The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to develop heart and vascular disease and to die from that disease.


Less Noticeable Symptoms

Heart disease – also known as “cardiovascular disease” - can lead to a heart attack or stroke.  Men and women may experience these differently. The most well-known symptoms of a heart attack include:

Women often have few, different, or no symptoms. Or they may experience vague symptoms such as:

Women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack, perhaps because they:


When to Call 911

Do not ignore symptoms that you may think are not important if they feel unusual to you.

Treatment should start within one hour of the onset of symptoms for the best outcome.


Live a Heart Healthy Life

Women over age 55 and those with a close family member with heart disease are at the greatest risk. However, it is never too early to practice heart-healthy habits. A wide range of factors can contribute to the development of heart disease.   Fortunately, many can be controlled or monitored.   You can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by taking these preventive steps:


Birth Control and Heart Health

Taking birth control pills can increase the risk of heart disease among some women, particularly those with other risk factors such as:

Check with your doctor to see if you personally might be at greater risk for a heart attack if you take birth control pills.


Aspirin and Heart Health

Aspirin may help prevent heart attacks and may be of particular help to women at high risk, such as those who have already had a heart attack. Aspirin can have side effects and also may not be compatible with many other medications. Only take a daily aspirin after consulting with your doctor to be sure it is safe for you.



American Academy of Family Physicians
Go Red for Women
Heart Disease in Women (MedlinePlus)
Women's Health.gov

For more information:

Go to the Heart Health health topic, where you can:

This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Feb 19, 2013