Women and Heart Disease

Heart disease – also called cardiovascular disease – refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain or stroke.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, but more women than men die of heart disease each year. That’s why at Fletcher Allen Health Care, we offer a heart disease program tailored specifically to women’s unique symptoms and risk factors. 

Women and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know 

Prevention
There are several lifestyle changes women can make to reduce their heart disease risk:

  • Follow a healthy eating plan rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins such as fish, chicken and beans and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt
  • Get 30-60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week
  • Aim for and maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking – Fletcher Allen offers a quit smoking program

Personalized Care
We provide a caring, personal approach to every woman we see.  We spend as much time with you as you need – answering all your questions and working together to develop a treatment plan that works for you, all the while keeping in mind that treatment for women and heart disease can be quite different from heart disease in men.

Experienced, Trusted Expertise
As a university hospital, our research-based expertise and knowledge of the latest heart health developments inform the care we provide every day—providing women access to the most recent heart disease treatments and technologies available.  Our cardiologists offer a broad range of diagnostic exams for women and heart disease.  We’re one of the leading heart programs in the region.  This means our female patients work with highly trained and experienced cardiologists who are on the frontiers of cardiac medicine.

What is Heart Disease?

The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease, in which a waxy substance called plaque builds up inside the coronary arteries reducing the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart.  Hardened plaque narrows or blocks the coronary arteries.

Women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or coronary microvascular disease.

In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease.  Part of the problem is that women’s heart disease symptoms can be different from heart disease symptoms in men.

Signs of a heart attack in women can be more subtle than the crushing chest pain often portrayed in movies. Symptoms may include:

  • Neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating 
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue

Traditional heart disease risk factors affect both women and men, such as:

However, other factors may play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women, including:

Additionally, women under the age of 65 who have a family history of heart disease should pay particularly close attention to heart disease risk factors.

Diagnosis and Treatment: Women and Heart Disease

Fletcher Allen’s physicians are highly trained in performing procedures to diagnose and treat women and heart disease such as echocardiogram and bypass surgery.

Learn more about women and heart disease diagnosis and treatment.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-4600.