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Women’s Health Week 2016: It’s about your heart

By Dr Sharon Thompson on May 9, 2016 in Gynecology



When you think of women’s health, you may think of breast cancer, ovarian cancer or your annual visit to get a pap smear.  But the leading cause of death for women is none of these.

Heart Disease is the #1 threat to women’s health.

Only 54% of women are aware of this fact. One in three women dies of heart disease each year and since 1984 more women than men have died each year from heart disease.  There are several reasons for this.

  1. Symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs men.
  2. Much of the recent research on heart disease causes and treatment was done on men
  3. Heart disease may have different causes in women and men 

Know the symptoms of a heart attack?

 For both women and men, the most common sign of a heart attack is:

 —Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest. The pain or discomfort can be mild or strong. It can last more than a few minutes, or it can go away and come back.

 Other common signs of a heart attack include:

 Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach

Shortness of breath (feeling like you can’t get enough air). The shortness of breath often occurs before or along with the chest pain or discomfort.

Nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) or vomiting

Feeling faint or woozy

Breaking out in a cold sweat

 Women are more likely than men to have these other common signs of a heart attack, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, and pain in the back, neck, or jaw.

 Women are also more likely to have less common signs of a heart attack, including:


Loss of appetite

Feeling tired or weak


Heart flutters

Decrease your risk for heart disease

–Maintain a healthy weight

–get active

–Eat a healthy diet

–Know your blood pressure, get treated if high

–Quit smoking

–Know your cholesterol numbers

–Get tested for diabetes– talk to your doctor about treatment and lifestyle changes if positive

–Avoid excessive alcohol use

–support efforts to understand heart disease in women


Dr Sharon Thompson

About the Author

Dr Sharon ThompsonView all posts by Dr Sharon Thompson
Dr. Thompson received her undergraduate degree in Biology from Vassar College and a Masters in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley. She went on to medical training at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and completed her postgraduate training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Harvard affiliated integrated Brigham and Women's and Massachusetts General Hospital residency program.


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