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Women's Heart Health

What’s Heart Disease?

It’s the heart's job to pump blood throughout your body. Heart disease—or cardiovascular disease—is when your heart (or a part of it) fails to do this well for any number of reasons. Common causes include stress, smoking, inactivity, poor diet, family history and sickness. There are different kinds of heart disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and they usually worsen unless treated with lifestyle changes or medication. There is no quick fix. 

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among women in the United States, killing six times as many women as those who die from breast cancer. Having the disease puts you at high risk for a heart attack, stroke, or congestive heart failure, which is when blood moves through your body too slowly and puts pressure on your heart. Results are often fatal or leave people permanently impaired. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to minimize your risk of heart disease.

Symptoms for Women

Symptoms for women are often very different and more subtle than those experienced by men. Although chest pain is the most common heart attack symptom in men and women, a substantial number of women do not experience chest pain during a heart attack.

Most common symptoms in women

    Before a heart attack

    • Unusually tired
    • Shortness of breath
    • Pain in the shoulder blade or upper back

   During a heart attack

    • Pain in the chest
    • Pain in the mid-back, neck or jaw
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Shortness of breath
    • Unusually fast heartbeat
    • Difficulty digesting food

Act Fast

Your chance of surviving a heart attack greatly increases if you’re treated within the first hour of when it begins. Many heart attack patients—especially women – wait two hours or more after their symptoms begin before they seek medical help. This delay can result in death or long-lasting heart damage. This is one of the reasons women tend to experience worse outcomes after a heart attack than men. Learning to recognize symptoms will help you get the treatment you need fast – and may even save your life.

Prevent heart disease

    • Understand heart disease
    • Know symptoms of a heart attack for women
    • Get an annual physical and talk to your doctor
    • Manage your individual risks (Top tips: Don’t smoke and exercise 30+ minutes/day)
    • Take our short risk assessment for heart disease.


For more information on heart health or to schedule an appointment with one of our heart or vascular specialists near you, contact:

Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute Physicians-Cardiology East
  • 6567 E. Carondelet Drive, Suite 225, Tucson, AZ 85710
  • (520) 886-3432
Carondelet Heart & Vascular Institute Physicians-Cardiology West
  • 445 E. Silverbell, Suite 201, Tucson, AZ 85745
  • (520) 396-1370