It is a fallacy that women develop heart disease less often than men. It is one of the main reasons that women are less likely to seek medical attention for the symptoms of angina and heart disease. They simply belittle the importance of their symptoms.
It is true that prior to the onset of menopause, estrogen provides some protection for women. In this age group, the incidence of heart disease among women is lower than their male counterparts. However, with the onset of menopause, estrogen levels decrease and women are equally as likely as men to develop heart disease. Reports indicate that 6 million American women suffer with heart disease. It is listed as the leading cause of death among women.
Risk Factors in Women
While some risk factors touch both men and women, like high cholesterol levels and obesity, there are some factors that have a greater impact on the development of angina in women.
- Metabolic Syndrome-the combination of elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, abdominal fat and high triglycerides
- Depression and stress
- Sedentary lifestyle
- History of complications during pregnancy
- Decreased estrogen levels in post-menopausal women
Angina Symptoms in Women
Symptoms in women are very similar to those experienced by men, but with some differences. These differences are another reason women may delay or avoid seeking medical advice for their symptoms. They can sometimes be vague and non-specific. Episodes usually occur with routine daily tasks. Development of any of the following symptoms should be the prompt to see a doctor.
- Sensation of pain, pressure, squeezing or burning sensation in the area of the breastbone. It may also be experienced in the jaw, back, across the shoulders or in the arms.
- Most women experience discomfort in the throat, jaw, abdomen, neck and back than in the chest area.
- Sensation of heartburn or indigestion.
- Discomfort that lasts more than five minutes
- Unexplained nausea
- Excessive fatigue
- Dizziness or lightheaded feeling
- Sleep disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Difficulty breathing
- Feelings of anxiety
Risk of Heart Attack Increased
Angina is a symptom of disease, not a disease itself. It does, however, indicate that you are at higher risk of experiencing a heart attack. The symptoms of angina occur when the heart does not receive an adequate supply of blood for a short period of time. A heart attack occurs when the flow of blood is permanently interrupted by some type of blockage, such as blood clots. Heart attacks in women do not always accompany dramatic symptoms and can be easily overlooked. Severe heart damage can develop as a result.
Anyone experiencing any of the following symptoms should seek emergency medical care. They could be a sign you are having a heart attack.
- Pain, pressure or discomfort that is severe, worsens or lasts greater than 20 minutes.
- Pain, pressure or discomfort along with weakness, nausea, excessive sweating or passing out.
- Pain, pressure or discomfort that is not relieved by the use of medications.
- Pain, pressure or discomfort that is different or more severe than what you have experienced previously.