Special Care for Women’s Hearts

Women’s Heart Care

As women age, heart disease in women increases. Penn Highlands Women’s Care Services is here to help you understand risk factors for heart disease in women and how you can lower your risk, as well as how to identify signs of a heart attack in women.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, just as it is men. In fact, more women die each year of heart disease than men, according to the American College of Cardiology. There is still a widely held misconception that women don’t have to worry about heart disease. There also is misunderstanding about heart attack symptoms in women. These two factors combined may put women at risk if they don’t take steps to protect their heart health or they don’t seek care in the event of a heart emergency.

Women’s Care Services for Heart Health

Penn Highlands is committed to keeping women and their hearts healthy. Our primary care providers will work with you on determining your risk for heart disease and recommend a screening schedule designed to catch any possible problems as early as possible.

If you are at high risk for heart disease, your doctor may refer you to a Penn Highlands cardiologist who specializes in women’s heart health. Your cardiologist may order a cardiac MRI, a diagnostic exam that can give your cardiologist a better view of your blood vessels. Women’s blood vessels tend to be smaller than men’s, and so they can’t always be seen during standard imaging.

If at any point you are diagnosed with heart disease, Penn Highlands offers a cardiac support group that can help you learn more about your disease and provide you with encouragement while you do the same for others.

Assessing a Woman’s Heart Health

Women often put themselves and their healthcare last, behind everyone else in the family. But in order to be around for your loved ones for a long time, you’ll need to protect yourself against women’s No. 1 killer—heart disease.

It’s important to keep up with screenings to keep tabs on your heart health. Penn Highlands cardiologists recommend asking your primary care doctor about the following tests:

  • Blood pressure check
  • Cholesterol panel
  • Blood glucose test
  • Atrial fibrillation screening
  • Peripheral vascular disease screening
  • Cardiovascular risk assessment

Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Women

Growing older increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease. Before menopause, women’s hormones offer some protection against heart disease. That’s not to say that women can’t develop heart disease earlier in life—they can and do—but it’s much more likely for heart disease to show up after menopause.

Your pregnancy history may be another indicator. If you were diagnosed with high blood pressure, preeclampsia, or gestational diabetes while pregnant, you are at a higher risk for heart disease than women who did not have such complications.

Other factors that put a woman at risk for heart disease include: family history of heart disease or diabetes, personal history, being overweight, having diabetes, smoking, and eating a diet high in sodium and saturated fat.

Signs of a Heart Attack in Women

As with men, the most common symptom of heart attack in women is chest pain. However, women are more likely to describe chest pain as discomfort or pressure as opposed to crushing or stabbing. Women are also more likely to experience other symptoms, including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaw, neck, back or abdominal pain
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy

If you believe you are experiencing a heart attack, call 9-1-1. Don’t delay, and don’t attempt to drive yourself to the ER.

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