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Knowing These 9 Symptoms of Heart Disease Can Save Your Life

Women are slightly less likely to exhibit the classic heart
attack symptoms.
Woman jogging. Knowing the symptoms of heart disease can be life-saving. Learn to recognize these 9 heart attack symptoms.

February marks American Heart Month, an effort to build awareness around the vastness of heart disease and its related risk factors. Much of the discussion will shed light on the prevalence of heart disease among women and how heart disease can present itself differently in females. 

Did You Know?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the US. Yet, only about 56% of women realize that heart disease is their number one killer. In fact, heart disease causes more deaths than all cancers combined.


Recognizing the prevalence of heart disease is the first step in taking heart disease seriously and planning steps to reduce your risk.

What is Coronary Artery Disease?

Also referred to as coronary heart disease, coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease.


It is a condition in which fatty plaque, or blockages, slowly builds on the walls of the blood vessels that feed the heart muscle with blood and oxygen. These blood vessels are called coronary arteries.


Plaques that partially block the coronary arteries can restrict blood flow and when restriction is severe these plaques can cause symptoms. When plaque becomes big enough to block the blood vessel completely it cuts off blood flow, depriving the heart muscle downstream of oxygen and nutrients. This results in a heart attack.

What are the Symptoms of Coronary Artery Disease?

Symptoms may differ from person to person. One might experience pain or discomfort in their chest, back, between the shoulder blades, neck, jaw, stomach, down the left arm or the right arm, or in both arms.

The symptoms of heart disease are often referred to as chest pain or angina. While many people experience pain, many do not describe their symptoms as pain, but instead use the terminology listed below. Symptoms of coronary artery disease include:

  1. Chest burning, pressure, tightness, squeezing, heaviness, or fullness
    2. Pain or discomfort in the back, neck, jaw, throat, left or right arm, both arms, or in the stomach/upper            abdomen
    3. Shortness of breath (which may or may not be accompanied by chest discomfort)
    4. Indigestion
    5. Nausea/vomiting
    6. Lightheadedness

    7. Dizziness
    8. Extreme, unexplainable fatigue
    9. Cold sweats

Most women experience the classic symptoms of chest pain or discomfort. However, women are slightly more likely to experience the less common symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, or neck and back discomfort.

If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 right away. It's very important that you do not ignore your symptoms and instead let a healthcare professional decide whether they are related to your heart.


These symptoms can occur when you experience a heart attack or as a warning sign, as if your heart is telling you that a plaque (or multiple plaques) is beginning to deprive your heart of oxygen-rich blood.

When Do Heart Disease Symptoms Occur?

Symptoms often occur with exertion, which puts an extra workload on the heart, and are often relieved with rest. However, symptoms are also known to show up after a big meal, early in the morning as your body prepares to wake up, when you are under stress, and even at rest. Pay attention to the patterns and be sure to inform your doctor.

What Can You Do to Prevent Heart Disease?


We have more control over our heart health than most people realize. So much so that coronary artery disease has been successfully reversed in thousands of people. Reversal of coronary artery disease means plaques getting smaller instead of bigger, and thus avoiding potential heart attack or surgery down the road. Heart disease can be prevented through:


  • A primarily whole food, plant-based dietary pattern

  • Regular exercise and physical activity

  • Optimal emotional wellbeing with focus on stress management and a strong support system


It is no secret that change in hard! That is where a knowledgeable and qualified health coach comes in. Health coaches understand the science behind making lifestyle behavior changes and how to make realistic changes that last. They provide accountability and help you set achievable goals, which together can increase your chances of success by 95%.


The Bottom Line

Coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease, is prevalent in women and in some cases the symptoms are different in women. If you experience any symptoms described above, call 911 right away. Early treatment can be lifesaving.

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Do you know the risk factors for heart disease? Get to know the 6 Risk Factors for Heart Disease That You Can Change and how to start making meaningful changes right away.

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