When it comes to heart disease, women face unique challenges. While cardiovascular disease is often portrayed as a “male” threat, it is the number one killer of women in the United States.
Women’s heart disease seems particularly threatening when we take into account that Hampton Roads residents have higher than average risk or death rate from cardiovascular disease- particularly among minority populations. Western Hampton Roads, which includes Portsmouth, probably has one of the highest rates in the state of Virginia.
According to Dr. Robert Dunton, of the Bon Secours Heart & Vascular Institute, many individuals are able to recognize the “traditional symptoms” of coronary artery blockage disease like chest pains, chest heaviness with activity, or shortness of breath, but few realize that women’s symptoms can be much different.
“What many men and women don’t realize,” says to Dr. Dunton, “is how unusual and subtle indications of a heart attack may be in women.” Not only are women’s symptoms much different than those of men, according to Dr. Dunton, “sometimes soldier on through their symptoms for longer than men” and postpone treatment.
Some examples of atypical symptoms of heart attack in women could include:
- Shoulder, Back, or Jaw Pain
- Flu-like Symptoms
These symptoms can be particularly dangerous because patients do not consider them indicators of a heart problem. Patients should be particularly wary of these symptoms and seek medical evaluation for them if they have certain risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease.