Awareness of Different Heart Disease Symptoms in Women Could Save Lives
The heart has been referred to as the seat of the soul. You can wear your heart on your sleeve, get to the heart of the matter or have a broken heart. But the primary function of the heart is to pump blood via the vast network of arteries throughout the body. When those arteries get blocked, that can cause a myriad of medical issues.
“Heart disease is a big basket term for many types of conditions,” says cardiologist Cindy Codispoti, DO. “Coronary artery disease, arrhythmias (or irregular heart beats), heart valve problems, and heart failure are some of the most common. A heart attack is usually due to a blockage in an artery that either partially or fully blocks the vessel.”
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women, but it may manifest itself differently in women. Classic symptoms of coronary artery disease are chest pain that radiates to the left arm, neck or jaw, and may be associated with sweating and nausea. There may be light-headedness, dizziness or numbness and tingling in the left arm. According to Dr. Codispoti, women more frequently have different symptoms such as indigestion, shortness of breath, nausea, severe fatigue or back pain.
Risk Factors That May Be Unique to Women
Dr. Codispoti says women also have some unique risk factors, which include: “Menopausal or post-menopausal state, pregnancy-related complication of high blood pressure or diabetes, and unique life stressors.”
Another factor that impacts women is the work-family conflict. “Women in the workplace strive to balance home life as they care for children and/or elderly parents,” says Dr. Codispoti. “Trying to maintain a career while managing these life stressors are important factors to consider, and may be treated as novel risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
While heart disease was traditionally thought of as a male disease, Dr. Codispoti says, “The field of cardiovascular disease has come a long way in research looking specifically at women. We have to think outside the box and be advocates for ourselves. If there are symptoms like profound fatigue or exercise intolerance, women should be aware that this may be an unusual manifestation of heart disease and seek medical attention.”
Dr. Cindy Codispoti is a cardiologist with Atlantic Medical Group, a multispecialty network of health care providers. She is affiliated with Hackettstown and Morristown medical centers. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Codispoti, call 908-441-7201.