Cardiovascular disease is women's top killer. Recognize the symptoms and act fast!

Women and Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is women's top killer. Fifty-seven percent of U.S. women are aware of heart disease as the leading cause of death in females, an increase from previous years, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). However, awareness among African-Americans and Hispanic women was lower than among Caucasian women and has not changed significantly over time. Risk factors for heart disease can be divided into those that suggest a major risk and those that lead to an increased risk. Major risk factors are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or being overweight, smoking, physical inactivity, heredity, and age. Factors that could lead to an increased risk include stress and excessive alcohol consumption—for women, that means more than one drink a day.

Symptoms in Women

Unshakable fatigue—tiredness that hampers activities—and sleeplessness appear to be early warning signs of a woman's heart attack, according to a 2003 report in the AHA journal Circulation. Other symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Nausea

  • Uncomfortable chest pressure (instead of sharp chest pain)

  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, or arms

If you have these symptoms, especially if they last more than five minutes, call 911.

Learn more on how women can help fight heart disease.