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Women and Heart Health


Did you know that women are more likely than men to suffer from diseases that mimic a heart attack? Did you know that women have smaller hearts and narrower blood vessels than compared to men?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for about 1 in every 5 female deaths. Heart ailments present themselves differently in men and women. For example, symptoms of heart disease and/or heart attack in women could present as:

  • Angina (a dull and heavy or sharp chest pain)
  • Nausea
  • Pain in the neck
  • Pain in the jaw
  • Pain in the throat
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting

It is important to call 911 if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.

Women are more likely to suffer from:

  • Coronary artery spasm: A temporary tightening of the muscles in the wall of an artery that sends blood to the heart; the spasm can reduce or block blood flow to part of the heart
  • Coronary artery dissection (SCAD): A condition when a tear forms in a blood vessel in the heart; this can slow or block blood flow to the heart causing a heart attached, heart rhythm problems or sudden death
  • Takotsubo Cardiomyopathy: An inflammatory response that causes the heart to become enlarged after an emotional stressor, also known as broken heart syndrome

Heart disease risk factors for women

  • Diabetes
  • Inflammatory diseases: Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory conditions may increase the risk of heart disease in both men and women
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Menopause: Low levels of estrogen after menopause increase the risk of developing disease in smaller blood vessels
  • Pregnancy complications: High blood pressure or gestational diabetes during pregnancy can increase the mother's long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes. These conditions also make women more likely to get heart disease
  • Smoking: Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.


Awareness & Prevention

Awareness is important but prevention is key. To prevent heart disease, everyone should practice healthy lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, limiting alcohol consumption, exercising daily and managing stress.

If one does experience a cardiac event, ECHN’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program can help strengthen the heart after treatment is administered. Cardiac rehabilitation is medically supervised program designed to improve cardiovascular (heart) health if you have experienced a heart attack, heart failure, angioplasty or heart surgery. 

Benefits of Cardiac Rehab

  • A supervised exercise prescription with continuous EKG monitoring
  • Ability to commiserate with other cardiac clients
  • Education to adopt a heart healthy lifestyle and reduce personal risk factors

ECHN’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program focuses on exercise counseling, training, and healthy lifestyle education.

  • Exercise counseling and training: Exercise gets your heart pumping and your entire cardiovascular system working. You’ll learn how to get your body moving in ways that promote heart health
  • Education for a heart healthy lifestyle: A key element of cardiac rehab is educating yourself: Here you can learn how to manage your risk factors, how to reduce stress and how to make healthy decisions.

ECHN’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program is in an acute care hospital with Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support staff and is accredited with AACVPR - American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation.



Mayo Clinic

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