Each year in the United States, one in every five female deaths is caused by heart disease. We often think of men when we think of heart disease or heart attacks. But women are just as vulnerable to this dangerous disease and have their own set of risk factors and symptoms to worry about. 

Both men and women should be concerned about how their diet, exercise, stress levels, drinking and smoking habits, and genetics impact their heart health. As they say, you get out what you put in, and if you put junk in your body or treat it poorly, you’ll feel the effects of it in the long run. However, there are some possibly surprising things you should look out for as a woman concerned about her health.

Periods Pregnancy and Menopause

You’ll probably be surprised to learn that the age at which you start your period or begin menopause may be linked to your risk of dying from heart disease many decades later. Research shows that women who start their periods before age 11 or enter menopause before 45 are more likely to have cardiovascular disease later in life. There are also links between the symptoms you experience during pregnancy and your heart health. If you have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes while pregnant (even if those symptoms subside after birth), your heart disease risk will increase significantly later in life. If you’re reading through this list, checking boxes of symptoms you’ve experienced in your life, it’s worth contacting a cardiologist.

Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis

While Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis can affect men and women, women are significantly more likely to suffer from both diseases. Both of these conditions are associated with increased inflammation in the heart, which can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and certain valve diseases. If you have been diagnosed with these or other autoimmune disorders, it’s worth speaking with a cardiologist to learn more about your risks.

Mental Health

You may not think your depression or anxiety affects your overall health, but chances are good that it is. Patients with depression and anxiety experience physiological symptoms like increased heart rate and surges of cortisol, these symptoms put added stress on your cardiovascular system, potentially leading to heart disease. Since women are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, left untreated, their symptoms can have devastating effects on their overall heart health.

Heart Disease Symptoms In Women

For both men and women, the primary symptoms of heart disease or heart attack are tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. However, women are more likely to have additional symptoms that men don’t experience. Specifically, women more often complain of jaw discomfort and nausea associated with a cardiac event. Women must understand these as potential symptoms of heart disease so they can seek help when they begin to experience them. 

Women are still at risk of experiencing heart health issues for all the same reasons as men. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential to protecting your heart from disease, even if you’re genetically predisposed to it. Keeping an active lifestyle, avoiding smoking, and eating healthy, balanced meals are essential to keeping a healthy heart. 

Some people speculate that as women are more likely to be caretakers, they are less adept at caring for their own needs. Symptoms like shortness of breath or nausea don’t seem so bad, so they’re left unaddressed until the patient begins to experience a severe cardiovascular emergency. The more women know about their potential risk factors, the better they can advocate for themselves. Contact our office today if you or a woman you love has these risk factors or has experienced any of these symptoms. Our team would love to help you maintain your heart health for years to come.