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Women's Heart Health

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year.

American women are five times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer.

Did you know that heart attack symptoms can be different in women? Over the past few decades, heart attack survival rates have improved overall. However, the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women may be different or less noticeable than men. Women are less likely to experience typical chest pain during a heart attack. They are diagnosed less frequently, are less inclined to seek prompt medical care and are therefore less likely to survive a heart attack.

Women often experience:

  • Jaw pain
  • Back pain
  • Heaviness of arms
  • Lightheadedness
  • Epigastric burning
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling flushed
  • Clammy skin
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue
  • Abnormal belching
  • Absence of chest pain or presence of vague chest discomfort

If you think you are having a heart attack, call 911! Emergency medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment right away, even before you get to the hospital.

Survive. Don’t Drive!

Cardiovascular Disease Prevention

Make these lifestyle changes:

  • Schedule an annual well woman visit
  • Know your numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar
  • Know your heart risk factors
  • Eat less sugar and simple carbohydrates
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Stop smoking
  • Know your family history
  • Exercise
  • Work with your doctor

Early Detection

  • Blood tests for cholesterol and C-reactive protein (CRP)
  • Cardiovascular stress tests
  • Coronary calcium scoring for at-risk women

Cardiac Imaging

Since heart symptoms in women are often vague, cardiac imaging is even more important to help assess risk and guide therapy. Based on your history and risk factors, your doctor will decide if you are a candidate for the following heart tests:

  • Echocardiogram - a test to assess heart muscle function, heart valve function and pressures over the heart
  • Stress testing - a test to determine whether you have blockages in the arteries of your heart
  • Ultrasound carotid - a test to assess whether you have blockages in the arteries of your neck
  • Holter (monitor) - a device that listens to the rhythm of your heart


Many heart diseases require a combination of diet, exercise, medication and surgery. Valley Health cardiovascular physicians perform many procedures using minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive procedures mean less pain, minimal scarring, shorter hospital stays and a quicker return to an active lifestyle. Older women in particular tend to be better candidates for minimally invasive procedures.

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