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Women's wellness: understand symptoms and risk factors for heart attack

From Mayo Clinic News Network, Mayo Clinic News Network on

Published in Health & Fitness

Although heart disease can often be thought of as a problem for men, heart disease is the most common cause of death for both women and men in the United States. One challenge is that some heart disease symptoms in women may be different from those in men. Fortunately, women can take steps to understand their unique symptoms of heart disease and to begin to reduce their risk of heart disease.

The most common heart attack symptom in women is some type of pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. But it is not always severe or even the most prominent symptom, particularly in women. And, sometimes, women may have a heart attack without chest pain. Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort

Shortness of breath

Pain in one or both arms

Nausea or vomiting

Sweating

Lightheadedness or dizziness

Unusual fatigue

These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or a tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart -- a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.

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