Health and Wellness: A women’s heart

Ann Cochran - Dallas County Health Department

Although often the heart of their family, women sometimes neglect their own heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of women. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease/art-20046167). As with men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain and women having a heart attack may have shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting and back or jaw pain. But women often have other symptoms that can confuse bystanders, or even health care professionals. Some women report feeling like they have the flu, or have vague symptoms like anxiety, cold sweats, or lightheadedness.

Denial and disbelief can cause delay in treatment for a woman who is experiencing cardiac problems. She may not recognize her symptoms as a heart attack. This is why many women die during their first heart attack, whereas men who have the more classic chest pain, shortness of breath and profuse sweating are given help more quickly and survive. A study published in 2019 found that women having a heart attack were less likely than men to receive a resuscitation attempt from a bystander (https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/article/40/47/3824/5492041?searchresult=1).

All women are potentially at risk for heart disease and should have regular checkups, avoid smoking and exercise several times per week.