LiveSmart: Do You Know the Symptoms and Risks for Heart Disease in Women?

[This story was written by Jessica Saunders, MD, cardiologist with Albany Associates in Cardiology, a member of St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates.] 

Surprising as it may seem, nearly half of American women are not aware of their risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that only 56 percent of women realize that heart disease is their number one killer.

According to the CDC:

  • Nearly half a million women in the United States die annually from a heart attack, stroke or other cardiovascular disease. This is more than the next five causes of death combined and nearly twice that of all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
  • In fact, 301,208 women died from heart disease in 2019, representing approximately 1 in every 5 female deaths.
  • African-American and Hispanic women are at the highest risk.

Women often do not have the classic heart attack symptoms experienced by men. Importantly, many women do not report chest discomfort at all. Instead, they may experience discomfort in the neck, jaw, arm, back or abdomen, shortness of breath, nausea, weakness, unusual fatigue, cold sweats, palpitations or dizziness. Because these can also be symptoms of other ailments, it is important to consult with your doctor if you have concerns.

Women are more likely to develop heart disease after menopause but heart disease can occur in younger women as well.

Prevention is the best medicine. To lower your risk:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and eat fewer processed foods
  • Limit salt and alcohol intake
  • Exercise 150 minutes a week or 30 minutes most days of the week

It is important for women to educate themselves regarding the risks of developing cardiovascular disease and consult with their doctor if they have any concerns.

Albany Associates in Cardiology, a member of St. Peter’s Health Partners Medical Associates, is committed to delivering the highest quality, state-of-the-art cardiovascular care to patients through evidenced-based guidelines.

With more than two dozen physicians and advanced practitioners treating patients at four locations, Albany Associates in Cardiology offers a vast range of services, including cardiology, echocardiography, vascular ultrasound, vascular clinics, nuclear cardiology, interventional cardiology at St. Peter’s and Samaritan hospitals, and electrophysiology. Visit us at or call 518-458-2000 to make an appointment.

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