Heart Disease and Women

More than 500,000 women die from heart disease in the United States each year -- almost twice as many women as breast, lung, ovarian and uterine cancers combined. The American Heart Association has called heart disease in women the "silent epidemic" because most Americans are still not aware of how common it is in women.

Women's signs and symptoms of heart attack are often different than men's.

Although men and women most commonly experience chest pain when having a heart attack, women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, fatigue, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Women are also less likely than men to believe that they are having a heart attack and therefore are more likely to delay seeking emergency treatment.

Did You Know...

Woman checking her pulse

  • Heart disease is the number one killer in American women, killing six times more women than breast cancer.
  • Every year, more women than men die from heart disease, yet more men are more likely to be treated for heart disease.
  • Women are more likely than men to have a "silent" heart attack -- one without clear signs or symptoms.
  • Women are more likely than men to have a heart attack without chest pain.
  • Heart disease is not a natural part of getting older and is largely preventable by making healthy lifestyle choices.
  • Lack of physical activity doubles the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke.

Call 9-1-1 if you are actively experiencing signs of a heart attack:

  • Pain or discomfort in the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back in a few minutes. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body, including the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. More specifically, pain not sensitive to touch and possibly pain associated with breathlessness or exhaustion.
  • Other symptoms, such as a shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health