Sweating, nausea, dizziness and unusual fatigue may not seem like typical heart attack symptoms, but they are common in women, and can occur more often at rest or during sleep, according to a study.
Unlike men, chest pain, pressure, or discomfort is not always severe or the most prominent heart attack symptom in women. That’s why women should be aware of their symptoms as they work to reduce their risk of heart disease, Mayo Clinic researchers say.
When women experience symptoms of heart failure, these symptoms are often misinterpreted. Often women’s symptoms are vague – shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Other women experience dizziness, headaches, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, and extreme fatigue.
“It’s important to first recognize your risk factors for heart disease and work to curb the behaviors that can increase that risk,” says Chatura Alur, M.D., a family medicine physician at the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
Certain factors, such as cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure, play a greater role in the development of heart disease in women than what are considered traditional risks.
To prevent heart disease, women should control lifestyle factors such as diabetes, mental stress and depression, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. Certain conditions, including menopause, heart failure, and pregnancy complications also increase a woman’s risk of heart disease.
“Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously,” said Dr. Allure.
“Many women downplay their symptoms and don’t seek care until heart damage occurs and an emergency room visit is necessary. We want women to listen to their bodies, feel normal for them, and understand the importance of seeking care. Symptoms can be severe.”
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), birth control pills and smoking increase the risk of heart disease by 20 percent in young women.
Women can have heart failure without showing any previous symptoms. About 64 percent of women who die suddenly from heart disease had no previous symptoms, the AHA said.
Women’s age and family history often play a role, increasing risk. Eating too much and leading a sedentary lifestyle are factors that lead to clogged arteries from time to time.
The AHA recommends getting cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier if you have a family history of heart disease. It is also important to have your blood pressure checked regularly.