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Women have more subtle signs of heart disease than men do

The symptoms of heart attack and stroke vary in women. They are more complicated

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According to a review published this Thursday in the journal Circulation of the American Heart Association, the signs and symptoms of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States, may be more subtle and varied in women than in men.

Females would do well to pay special attention to the symptom differences. According to Corrine Jurgens, an associate professor at Boston College’s Connell School of Nursing and one of the review’s authors, women are more likely to be diagnosed with heart disease later in life than men, when other conditions may make it more difficult to recognize the subtle symptoms.

Meanwhile, a report from 2020 also published in Circulation found that women’s recognition of heart disease as their primary health risk has decreased over the preceding decade.

Breast cancer is the number one health concern for many women, according to Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Dr. Deirdre Mattina. Unfortunately, “we know that one in three women are going to die of heart disease each year.”

The symptoms of a heart problem are similar for men and women in that they almost never occur on their own.

The symptoms tend to manifest in groups, as Jurgens pointed out. Usually, “people don’t come in with just one symptom.”

While cardiac events like heart attacks and strokes can occur suddenly, many of the symptoms worsen over time.

Patients with heart failure, according to Mattina, may notice a gradual decline in their ability to take in full breaths or report that they are unable to walk as far as they once could.

Mattina stated, “We’re looking for a pattern.”

We’ll look at the six most typical cardiovascular disease symptoms and signs.

Shock to the heart

Angina occurs when blood supply to the heart muscle is suddenly blocked or severely reduced.

Although chest pain is the most recognizably characteristic symptom of a heart attack, other, more subtle symptoms may be present, such as a feeling of pressure or tightness in the chest that may spread to the jaw, arms, and back.

Heart attacks are roughly two times more common in men than in women.

However, heart attack symptoms in women are more prevalent than in men and can include nausea, dizziness, extreme fatigue, and cold sweats.

When a heart attack occurs, younger women, defined as those younger than 55, typically exhibit three or more symptoms. Jaw, neck, arm, or shoulder pain, heartburn, and palpitations are all examples.

Stroke

Stroke is brought on by a severe decrease in, or complete halt of, blood supply to the brain.

Facial drooping, weakness in the arms, trouble speaking, confusion, and dizziness are all symptoms of a stroke. Those experiencing a stroke need immediate medical attention.

The review found that women are more likely to experience symptoms like altered mental state and headache.

Patients who have suffered a stroke, which can have an effect on their mental faculties, should definitely follow up with their doctors. Because of this, it might be harder for patients to notice any changes in their symptoms.

Weak heart

Most people with heart failure, in which the heart isn’t able to pump blood effectively, report experiencing shortness of breath. After a heart attack, it is a common occurrence.

According to Jurgens, it can take up to three weeks for people to experience noticeable symptoms of heart failure and realize they need to seek emergency medical attention.

A number of different symptoms can show up, including nausea, vomiting, a lack of appetite, fatigue, mood swings, and memory loss.

Symptoms of heart failure in women are more varied and may include sweating, unusual swelling, heart palpitations, and a burning sensation in the chest. The review found that depression and anxiety frequently accompany those signs and symptoms.

People with heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions are more likely to suffer from depression. The review found that 10% of those with heart disease also suffer from depression, compared to 5% of those without heart disease.

Because of this, it may be difficult for patients to distinguish between the effects of depression and those of heart disease when attempting to diagnose the cause of their symptoms.

Disease of the Heart Valves

When one or more of the heart’s valves are malfunctioning, this is known as heart valve disease. One of the most common symptoms of heart failure is difficulty breathing.

Aortic stenosis is a complication that develops when the aortic valve, which controls blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, becomes narrowed and blood flow is impeded. Valve disease is more common in women, but it causes more severe symptoms in men, including chest pain and difficulty breathing during exercise.

Rhythm disturbances in the heart

When the heart’s electrical signals fail to properly transmit impulses, an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, results.

In women, the issue most often manifests as a feeling of anxiety or panic in the chest.

Symptoms of an irregular heartbeat are often completely absent in men.

However, arrhythmias are not always accompanied by these symptoms and sometimes patients experience fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Most people who experience those symptoms are African Americans.

Disorders of the peripheral blood vessels

Symptoms and risks of heart disease can also manifest in the legs.

Peripheral vascular disease raises the danger of cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes and can even cause amputations.

Two distinct varieties exist: diseases of the arteries and veins in the extremities.

Blood clots and deep vein thrombosis are possible outcomes of peripheral vein disease, which prevents blood from flowing normally from the legs to the heart.

The accumulation of cholesterol in the arteries supplying the extremities, most often the legs, leads to peripheral artery disease.

According to Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Amy Pollak, “one of the primary symptoms is difficulty walking” for peripheral artery disease. She mentioned that while foot and leg pain are possible, many patients also experience fatigue and heaviness in their legs.

The problem is that “many patients chalk it up to something else,” as Pollak put it. Many doctors have written off the symptoms as the result of simple aging, arthritis, or neuropathy.

Indeed, women may be more likely to have coexisting conditions like osteoarthritis that can mimic or hide the symptoms of peripheral artery disease.

“may be a really important clue to that greater arterial tree that runs through our body, connecting the heart, brain, and legs,” Pollak said, emphasizing the importance of identifying the source of such leg pain or discomfort.

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