Many women are unaware that symptoms of heart disease in women can differ from those of men. Although women do experience chest pain generally associated with heart attack, they commonly have other more subtle symptoms including fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, and general discomfort in the chest and abdominal area.
Smoking also can increase women's risk for heart attack up to five times that of nonsmokers, according to results from the Nurses' Health Study that tracked effects of lifestyles on the health of more than 80,000 nurses for 14 years.
Women who had the lowest risk of heart disease, according to the study, were not overweight, ate a healthful diet and exercised regularly.
Some risk factors are beyond one's control, including:
- Age – Risk of heart disease increases in postmenopausal women.
- Family history – Women with parents with heart disease are most likely to develop it.
- Race – African-American and Hispanic women are at greater risk than Caucasian women.
Even if you have these risks, certain lifestyle changes can improve your overall outlook, according to the American Heart Association. Women can decrease risk quickly and significantly by not smoking, eating a diet low in saturated fat that includes five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, exercising regularly, and controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol.
Although the symptoms of heart disease may vary, prevention is similar for men and women. Everyone who adopts a healthy lifestyle is doing a lot to decrease the risk of heart disease. For more information about prevention programs, call The Summit Medical Fitness Center at (406) 751-4100.
Learn more about women's risk for heart disease from the American Heart Association.