Heart Disease and Women

Heart attacks often feel different to a woman than to a man. Women are more likely than men to have "silent" or unrecognized heart attacks (myocardial infarction).

Not all heart attacks begin with sudden, crushing chest pain, the way they are often shown in the movies and

"My symptoms were actually a numbness across the back of my neck and shoulders and almost flu like symptoms and shortness of breath that lasts just a short period of time.”

"I really didn't have any symptoms either. In fact, I'm one of those people who because of my age went to the doctor faithfully every year for my annual checkup. Never been overweight, never had high cholesterol, none of the usual things."

I started hurting right under my shoulder blades a little, nothing major. Then my legs started hurting and then the side of my face, but I was doing aerobics and I was doing my walking. It started getting worse and I got where I couldn't walk. I had shortness of breath.”

For many women, a heart attack may feel like a strange discomfort in the back or some other easily ignored sign.

The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to get heart disease, but women of all ages should be concerned about heart disease.

Nancy Vickers was only 39 when she was hit, and she has always been health conscious, so it was quite a surprise.

"All those people who smoke or drink have heart disease. I don't smoke or drink, but it happens."

"I knew the symptoms were different, but still there are so many symptoms for women that it's hard to identify, that you fall into a category of symptoms."

"The every day things you go through. You're raising kids, you're thinking about them, you're taking care of family members, you get a little bit of pain, you go on and do what you have to do, ‘cause it's your responsibility to do it. I don't think women pay enough attention to their own bodies and their symptoms."

Eight million American women are currently living with heart disease:

- 10% are ages 45 - 64 and 25% age 65 and over
- 435,000 American women have heart attacks each year;
- 83,000 are under age 65
- 9,000 are under age 45.

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