Heart Disease in Women: Symptoms & Risk Factors

  • Posted on: Sep 6 2022
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According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., causing one in every five deaths. Cardiovascular disease kills more women than all types of cancers combined, and yet most women are not aware of the importance of heart health. 

From genes to lifestyle choices, there are numerous factors that affect your risk of developing heart disease. Learn more about the symptoms of heart disease in women and what risk factors can affect your health. 

Heart Disease Symptoms

The CDC reports that women tend to notice symptoms of heart disease later than men do. Some women experience no symptoms of heart disease at all, but many feel chest pain and discomfort, also called angina. 

Angina can present with feelings of:

  • Heaviness
  • Tightness
  • Pressure
  • Discomfort
  • Aching
  • Numbness
  • Squeezing

Women are also more likely to experience atypical symptoms of heart disease. Some of the most common include extreme weakness, unusual fatigue, and shortness of breath. Other atypical symptoms include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Faster heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Sudden sweating with no cause

Although symptoms of a heart attack are similar in women and men, there are early warning signs that women tend to ignore. They may experience prodromal symptoms hours, weeks, and even months before a heart attack. These warning signs can be:

  • Feeling anxious
  • Trouble breathing at night
  • Frequent indigestion
  • Cough
  • Loss of appetite
  • Racing heart
  • Foggy thinking 
  • More frequent headaches
  • Discomfort in jaw and teeth
  • Weak or heavy arms
  • Discomfort and pain in the chest

These symptoms can come and go on their own. Women tend not to mention them until their severity increases, but it is important to reach out to professionals if you begin experiencing them. 

Heart Disease Risk Factors

There are risk factors, like high blood pressure, which affect everyone, but there are also sex-specific risks that can play a significant role in your heart health. Since risk factors compound, the more of them you have the more likely it is that you develop some type of heart disease. 


Obesity is more dangerous for women than men. The CDC reports that obesity can increase the risk of heart disease by 64% and makes it three times more likely for a woman to have a heart attack. 

Women have a high risk of developing obesity after menopause and have a greater chance of gaining fat in the abdomen, increasing the chances of developing heart disease. 


Women who have diabetes are, according to the CDC, up to four times more likely to develop heart disease than men with diabetes. 

High Cholesterol

Women who have high levels of LDL cholesterol have a high risk of heart disease, the CDC says. “Good” cholesterol (HDL cholesterol) levels also impact heart health. Women who have low levels of HDL cholesterol have an increased risk.

Family History

Having a history of heart disease in your family also impacts your risks. The age of diagnosis for your family members is important with this factor. If a male parent or sibling had heart disease before the age of 55, or a female parent or sibling had it before 65, then you have a history of early heart disease. 


Women who smoke are more likely to develop heart disease than men who smoke, according to the CDC.


Estrogen helps prevent cardiovascular disease, but during menopause estrogen levels drop significantly. Women face a higher risk of developing blood clots, high cholesterol, and plaque buildup in the arteries. 

Lower Your Risks of Heart Disease

By knowing the risk factors of heart disease and the symptoms women experience, you can take the first step toward lowering your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. 

To learn more about heart disease in women, reach out to cardiologists in Hicksville and Lake Success, NY, like the experienced team at Cardiovascular Wellness.

Posted in: Heart Disease

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