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Women and Heart Health

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, resulting 1 in 3 deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association. The most common condition is atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the narrowing of the artery walls due to build-up of plaque which can restrict blood flow to your heart. Plaque that breaks off and forms a blood clot can cause a heart attack or stroke.

WCA HeartCare 2018

Baylor Scott & White Heart and Vascular Hospital - Dallas has earned the 2018 Women's Choice Award as one of America's Best Hospitals for Heart Care by earning women's highest recommendation. The Women's Choice Award is the only evidence-based designation that identifies the country's best hospitals based on robust criteria and what women say they want from a hospital.

Heart Attack in Women

Heart attack symptoms vary in men and women, and not all women will experience the same symptoms. If you are having a heart attack, you may experience some of the following symptoms.

  • Chest pain – Pain may be mild or absent, often described as “pressure”, “dullness” or “ache”. Stomach pain may occur.
  • Fatigue – Many women report sudden onset of unusual fatigue as their only warning sign of a heart attack.
  • Shortness of breath – May occur at same time or before chest pains. More common in women.
  • Sweating – May occur at same time or before chest pains. More common in women.
  • Throat, neck, back, or jaw pain – Discomfort may be felt in other areas of the upper body. More common in women.
  • Nausea, vomiting or indigestion – May experience nausea, vomiting or indigestion. Much more common in women.

Not all heart attacks have obvious symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. A heart attack can occur without the person knowing due to there being minimum or no symptoms. Often referred to as a silent heart attack, silent ischemia occurs when there is a lack of oxygen to the heart muscle due to blood flow being temporarily blocked. If you believe you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Women should be aware of their risk factors for a heart attack. Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol, regular exercise and avoiding smoking can help decrease the risk of a heart attack.

Health Screenings

Start with a phone call to your doctor. He or she can recommend self-tests and set up the screening tests that can help you uncover health problems early, when they're most treatable. This list of screenings can help you start on 12 months of healthy living. Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings for you, based on your family history or other risk factors.

Cara East, MD

Cardiologist/Researcher Dr. Cara East Provides Commentary on Women and Heart Disease

Women are more likely to suffer what is called a silent heart attack, a temporary blockage that can damage the heart, sometimes while they're resting or asleep. They may have discomfort in their shoulder blades or even their abdomen, but then they feel OK and nobody worries about it. What you think could be an ulcer could actually be a heart attack.

Anumeha Tandon, MD

A Passion for Women's Heart Health

Doctors and patients need to pay more attention to a neglected topic

In medical school, you're so busy learning the basics that it's hard to focus on specific issues in healthcare. But as I specialized in cardiology here at Baylor and started my career as a physician, I realized there was one aspect of medicine where I wanted to make a difference: improving heart health in women.

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