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Women and Heart Health

Baylor Scott y White Heart and Vascular Hospital
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Heart disease tops breast cancer as the leading cause of death in women

Approximately 500,000 women die of heart disease each year in the United States—that’s more than twice the number of women who die from cancer, including breast cancer. In fact, heart disease causes 10 times more deaths than breast cancer. 

Women should also be aware of their risk factors for a heart attack. Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol, regular exercise and not smoking can help decrease the risk of a heart attack.

A woman in an orange shirt hugs and smiles with a woman in a white sweater

Heart attack symptoms can differ between women and men

Some women think heart disease is just a man's disease, but the risk factors for heart disease are the same for men and women. Heart disease can develop over several years without symptoms, and when women have heart attacks, they may experience other symptoms besides chest pain. This chart highlights these differences.

Heart Attack Symptom Men Women
Chest Pain Discomfort in the center of the chest, often described as crushing. Pain may be mild or absent, often described as pressure, dullness or ache.
Shortness of breath May occur simultaneously or before chest pain. May occur simultaneously or before chest pain.
More common in women.
Sweating May break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
More common in men.
May break into a sweat with cold, clammy skin.
Throat, neck, back or jaw pain Discomfort may be felt in other areas of the upper body. Discomfort may be felt in other areas of the upper body.
More common in women.
Nausea, vomiting or indigestion May feel nauseated and vomit. May feel nauseated and vomit.
More common in women.
Anxiety May feel a sense of doom. Heart attacks in women may be mistaken for panic attacks with shortness of breath, anxiety and indigestion.
Fatigue Fatigue is less common in men. Many report a sudden onset of unusual fatigue as their only warning sign of a heart attack.

Silent ischemia

Not all heart attacks have obvious symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. A heart attack can occur without the person knowing due to there being minimum or no symptoms. Often referred to as a silent heart attack, silent ischemia occurs when there is a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle due to temporarily blocked blood flow.

If you believe you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

  • Panic attack or heart attack?

    For some people—especially women—heart attacks don’t announce themselves with crushing chest pain that’s incapacitating and unmistakable.

Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas, recommended by women

Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital – Dallas has earned for the fourth consecutive year the 2021 Women's Choice Award as one of America's Best Hospitals for Heart Care by earning women's highest recommendation.

The hospital also received the 2021 Women's Choice Award as one of America's Best Hospitals for Patient Safety.

The Women's Choice Award is the only evidence-based designation that identifies the country's best hospitals based on robust criteria and what women say they want from a hospital.

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