What Every Woman Should Know About Heart Disease


Heart disease accounts for almost as many deaths of American women as it does for men — but only around half of women recognize their risk of death from heart disease. Women often have different symptoms of heart problems than men, and their risk rises after menopause and with advanced age, so it can be easy to miss problems that are slowly developing. 

At Prima Medicine in Fairfax and South Riding, Virginia, our team of doctors and nurse practitioners is committed to raising awareness about heart health risks for women and treating conditions like angina as promptly as possible to reduce damage to the heart. 

What you should know about heart disease in women

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, with deaths concentrated in the Deep South. This clustering may be attributed to lack of health care and the prevalence of risk factors such as obesity and poor nutrition, both of which increase the risk of heart issues.

Women are more likely than men to have specific types of heart problems, including angina (chronic, intermittent chest pain), cardiomyopathy, and coronary artery spasms.

Symptoms of heart attack in women

While chest pain is still the most common symptom of heart attack in both sexes, women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:

  • Pain or discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, one or both arms, or abdominal area
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Sweating

For women, risk of heart attack goes up sharply after menopause, and again around age 72. However, signs of heart disease are often missed in younger women, even though 1 in 16 women over the age of 20 already have early stage heart disease. 

Managing heart disease risk for women

The best way to manage your heart disease risk is to get regular checkups from a doctor, and to manage conditions that increase your risk for heart attack or other heart issues, such as:

Blood pressure

Keep your blood pressure under control by reducing stress in your life and taking prescribed medication, if needed, to maintain steady blood pressure.


If you are or think you could have Type 2 diabetes, monitor your blood glucose levels. Untreated diabetes can significantly increase your heart health risks, so talk to your doctor if diabetes runs in your family or if you notice stubborn weight gain, especially after age 40.


High levels of “bad” cholesterol can put your heart at risk. Adjusting your diet may be all you need to do to bring your levels within acceptable ranges, or you may need medication. 


Extra pounds put added stress on your heart, so manage your weight with exercise and nutrition to avoid obesity. Losing weight can help your heart work more efficiently and reduce strain. 


Women who smoke have a 2-4 times higher risk of cardiovascular disease, so now is a good time to stop. Your doctor can help you come up with a plan to kick the habit. 

Are you worried about your heart health, or are you experiencing pain you think could be related to angina or another heart condition? Call one of our offices or request an appointment now using our online booking system.

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