Women and Heart Disease | Episode 048

Episode summary introduction:

Despite increases in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 299,578 women in 2017—or about 1 in every 5 female deaths.

Topic 1:

Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath.

Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).

Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins.

Topic 2:

Risk Factors:

  • Diabetes

  • Obesity

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Inactivity

  • Too much alcohol

  • Smoking

  • High blood pressure

  • Family history of heart disease

  • Depression

  • Chronic stress

  • Inflammatory disease (lupus or RA)

  • HIV

  • Menopause

Topic 3:

Diagnostic Testing:

  • EKG - Measure electrical activity in your heart, looking for arrhythmias or hx of heart attacks

  • Echocardiogram - ultrasound of the heart looking at structure, functions and valves

  • Stress Test - During this test, you’ll exercise while wearing equipment to measure your heart’s electrical signals and your blood pressure. It can predict whether you have blockages that may be limiting blood flow to your heart when you exercise.

  • Carotid Ultrasound - look for risk for stroke

  • Ankle brachial index, the ratio of the blood pressure in your legs to your arms.

  • Coronary CTA, a specialized CT scan that looks at the blood vessels around the heart to see if there are blockages present.


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Most women do not have signs of heart disease. Women should talk with their doctors regarding risk factors.

  • Educate your patients and family to know their blood pressure.

  • Having uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to heart disease.

  • High blood pressure has no symptoms, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. (Visit episode 8 for more info on HTN)

  • Talk to your doctor or health care team about whether you should be tested for diabetes.

  • Having uncontrolled diabetes raises your risk of heart disease.

  • Quit smoking.

  • If you don’t smoke, don’t start.

  • Discuss checking your blood cholesterol and triglycerides with your doctor.

  • Make healthy food choices

  • Being overweight or obese raises your risk of heart disease.

  • Limit how much alcohol you drink to one drink a day.

  • Manage stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with stress.

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