Heart Disease RibbonWhere red this month not just because of Valentine’s Day, but because February is Heart Disease Awareness Month.  Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the US? One out of every four female deaths is due to heart disease.  Heart disease is often used interchangeably with “cardiovascular disease.” It is a broad term used to describe many diseases that affect your heart. Some of the diseases included under the umbrella of heart disease are diseases of your blood vessels, heart rhythm problems, heart infections, heart defects, and narrowed or blocked vessels. It is important to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease.

While some women have no symptoms, others experience angina (dull, heavy to sharp chest pain or discomfort), pain in the neck/jaw/throat or pain in the upper abdomen or back. These may occur during rest, begin during physical activity, or be triggered by mental stress. Women are more likely to describe chest pain that is sharp, burning and more frequently have pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back.   Other symptoms of heart disease may include:

  • Heart Attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.
  • Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
  • Heart Failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen.
  • Stroke: Sudden weakness, paralysis (inability to move) or numbness of the face/arms/legs, especially on one side of the body. Other symptoms may include: confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness, or sudden and severe headache.

Next week we will list the risk factors for heart disease as well as things you can do to lower your risk.