Frequently Asked Questions

What are the risk factors for heart disease in women?

Did you know that nearly 50 percent of U.S. women have at least one risk factor for heart disease?

There are several risk factors for heart disease risk factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity – that are similar for both men and women. However, there are several other risk factors that often play a bigger role for women, including: gestational diabetes, mental health conditions, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, early onset menopause, chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy, or complications of pregnancy. Plus, many recent studies have found that conditions women may experience during pregnancy, like pre-eclampsia, may increase a woman’s risk for developing heart disease later in life.

While some risk factors, like gender, age and family history are not controllable, other risk factors can be minimized. To reduce your risk of developing heart disease, remember these simple tips – and talk with your cardiologist for more personalized advice:

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise regularly – between 150 to 300 minutes each week
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage underlying health conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes mellitus
  • Eat a balanced diet high in whole grains, fruits and vegetables and low in added sugars, salts and saturated or trans fats
What are the symptoms of heart disease in women?

Oftentimes, pain, discomfort or pressure in the chest are believed to be the only symptoms of a heart attack. However, some women may experience entirely different symptoms – or none at all. To ensure that you receive the most effective treatment possible, it’s important to recognize symptoms and seek care immediately – this will ensure the best possible outcome and may save your life.

Unlike men, women are more likely to have the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pressure
  • Pain in the arms
  • Sweating
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Stomach pain

These symptoms are often subtle and may occur while resting.

It’s crucial to become familiar with these tell-tale signs and to take note of subtle changes in the way your body feels. Call your doctor right away if you feel any sudden or unusual symptoms.

What are the risk factors and symptoms of heart failure in women?

As the leading reason for hospitalizations for women older than 65, heart failure impacts around 3.6 million women in the US. Women tend to develop heart failure later in life than men do, but prevention strategies and early detection are key for this condition.

High blood pressure and type 2 diabetes are both more likely to lead to heart failure in women, so women with these conditions should likely consult with a cardiologist about their risk. Among younger women, peripartum cardiomyopathy, a condition where women develop heart failure during or shortly after their pregnancy, is also a condition that only impacts women.

The most common symptoms of heart failure in women are:

  • Cough that worsens when lying down
  • Difficulty breathing when lying down
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Frequent urination
  • Shortness of breath during non-strenuous activities
  • Swelling of the feet, legs, ankles or stomach
  • Unexplained weight gain
Do I need a referral for the Women’s Heart Center?

We encourage women of all ages and all heart care needs – from prevention and diagnostics to advanced treatment of complex conditions – to receive care at through the Women’s Heart Center. You can easily schedule your appointment online or call our location to make your appointment.

As a part of Georgia Heart Institute, many of the services and expertise offered through Women’s Heart Center are available at all Georgia Heart Institute locations. Many of these locations offer direct access to comprehensive imaging and interventional cardiology services you may need – now or in the future.