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Understanding the Risk Factors and Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

Published on February 4, 2014 by Virginia Women's Center

Across the country, medical institutions, companies and individuals will participate in National Wear Red Day® on February 7, 2014. The staff and physicians at Virginia Women’s Center are proud to join this effort by donning red and helping spread awareness about heart disease in women. Although heart disease is typically thought of as a disease affecting men, it kills more women than all cancers combined. While it is important to spread awareness, it is also important to help educate our friends, families and loved ones.


What are the risk factors for heart disease in women?

  • A family history of heart disease or heart attack
  • High total cholesterol or high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Age (55 or older)
  • Menopause
  • Metabolic syndrome (large waist size, elevated blood pressure, glucose intolerance, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides)
  • Mental stress and depression


What are the signs and symptoms of heart attacks in women?

Many people think the only sign of a heart attack is crushing chest pain. In women, often the symptoms are more subtle and less severe. However, even though the symptoms are different, the amount of damage a heart attack can cause is no less. If you experience the below symptoms or think you may be having a heart attack, call for emergency medical help immediately.

  • Pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest
  • Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue


How can women reduce their risk of heart disease?

  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet by decreasing saturated fat, cholesterol and salt and increasing fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains
  • Manage conditions that are risk factors for heart disease


For more information about heart health as well as tips for living a heart-healthy lifestyle, visit the Web site of the American Heart Association.


About Virginia Women’s Center
Virginia Women’s Center is a full-service women’s health care provider specializing in obstetrics, gynecology, urology, high-risk obstetrics, obstetrical genetic counseling, ultrasound, in-office procedures, mammography, bone health, psychology, nutrition and clinical research. The practice sees patients in four locations in the Richmond area and has additional offices in Kilmarnock and Tappahannock. For more information, visit, or find us on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.