Skip to main content Skip to footer

Women and heart disease: It’s not just a man’s problem

Cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes are listed as some of the leading causes of death in women across the globe. But in the United States, the number one killer of women may come as a shock: heart disease.

Heart disease has long been associated as a man’s condition, but this is one of many misconceptions surrounding women and heart disease — and it turns out it affects women differently than men.

Women with heart disease often don’t exhibit the classic symptoms that men do, such as chest pains, shortness of breath and feeling ill after overexertion. Women are also more likely to suffer what is called a "silent heart attack," a temporary blockage that can damage the heart — sometimes while they’re resting or asleep.

During a "silent heart attack," women may experience discomfort in their shoulder blades or pain in their abdomen that can sometimes be mistaken as an ulcer.

Heart attack symptoms in women vs. men

Women may experience classic symtpoms but often milder:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Nausea, vomiting or dizziness
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue
  • Palpitations, cold sweats or paleness
  • Mild, flu-like symptoms

Women most often report emotional stress prior to heart attacks.

Men often, but not always, experience classic symptoms:

  • Pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest that goes away and comes back
  • Pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck or arms
  • Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath

Men most often report physical exertion prior to heart attacks.

Are you at risk?

Discover your risk for developing heart disease

Comprehensive heart disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment options for heart and vascular conditions

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​For decades, Baylor Scott & White Health has delivered advanced heart and vascular care right here in Texas, pioneering many breakthrough techniques that have revolutionized cardiac care. Our team of cardiologists, surgeons, interventional radiologists, interventional cardiologists, radiologists, electrophysiologists and surgeons on the medical staff and healthcare professionals work together to provide you quality care for a range of heart and vascular conditions.

{6}
  • From story to art: How her smartwatch saved her life

    Artist Raynor Bearden illustrated Elizabeth’s story with a vibrant piece that pays tribute to the critical elements that worked together to save her life — Elizabeth’s joyful personality, the role of technology and her expert care team.

Expert advice from our blog

Scrubbing In® is a place where hands-on healthcare discussions are happening every day with the people whose own hands are on the front lines of patient care, the doctors, nurses and medical staff who are saving lives and advancing medicine.

Scroll To Top