Women's heart disease risk factors

Do women have heart problems? While the symptoms might be different than they are for men, the answer is “yes.”

Coronary heart disease is the number one killer of women, affecting one out of every three women each year. While the risk of heart disease increases with age and menopause, younger women are at risk for heart disease, too. By learning some basic facts about symptoms, you can talk with your doctor about whether you’re at risk.

Find more information. Contact the UPMC Women’s Heart Program.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

Women are busy juggling tasks at work and at home. It’s easy for women to care for others, but what about caring for yourself? Do you ignore how you feel because you’re too busy, or because you think there’s nothing to it?

You might think you’re feeling tired because you’re getting older. Or if you’re pregnant, you guess that’s why you’re feeling light-headed. You’ve had a dry cough for a few months, but isn’t it just a cold? Maybe, but maybe not. It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor if you have:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fluttering in the chest (also called heart palpitations)
  • Fatigue, or feeling very tired
  • Coughing, especially a dry cough
  • Anxiety
  • Swelling of your feet or ankles
  • Fast weight gain

And, it’s very important to know that heart attack symptoms can be different for women than they are for men. Women don’t always have the classic symptoms like chest pain, arm pain, and shortness of breath. Your symptoms might be less dramatic and can include:

  • Pressure or pain in the chest that comes and goes
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Pain in the jaw, arm, or back

If you think you or someone else is having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away. Early treatment can save your life.

Common Heart Problems

Both men and women are affected by:

  • Coronary artery disease – Happens when the blood vessels that bring blood and nutrients to the heart and blocked
  • Valve problems – Happen when the valves don’t open or close properly
  • Arrhythmia – Happens when your heart beats too fast, too slow, or in an irregular way
  • Heart failure – Happens when your heart can’t pump enough blood to meet your body’s needs

Get Checked or Screened

By having a checkup, you can get facts about your symptoms, your risks, and your treatment options.

Visit the UPMC Women’s Heart Program or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (1-855-876-2484) to learn more or request an appointment. You can also gain insight into your risk factors by visiting a free heart screening.