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Women, Know the Signs of Heart Attack


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2/19/2013
John L. Keefe
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February is heart health month, and the American Heart Association is focusing on heart disease in women. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States, but women often are underdiagnosed or not diagnosed until after they have suffered a serious heart attack. This is because symptoms of heart disease in women often are different from symptoms in men, and are overlooked by both patients and doctors. 

What are the heart disease risk factors for women?

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure 
  • Obesity 
  • Metabolic syndrome (a combination of fat around the abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides) 
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Poor diet
  • Low levels of estrogen after menopause 


Most people recognize crushing chest pain as a sign of a heart attack. However, the signs of a heart attack may be more subtle in women. In men, blockages tend to occur in a main artery. Women tend to have blockages in the small arteries that supply blood to the heart as well as their main arteries. This condition is known as small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.

Symptoms of a heart attack in women include: 

  • Pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest
  • Discomfort in the neck, shoulder, or upper back 
  • Abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Indigestion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Unusual fatigue 


If you experience these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Many women wait too long to seek help and don’t see a doctor until after irreversible heart damage already has occurred.

If heart disease or a heart attack leaves you unable to handle the physical or mental demands of your job, you may be able to file for SSDI. To learn more about SSDI for heart disease, read our article, “What Women Need to Know about SSDI and Heart Disease” or request a free copy of Boston SSDI attorney John Keefe’s book, Five Most Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security Disability. To schedule an appointment with a Massachusetts disability benefits lawyer, contact Keefe Disability Law at 888-904-6847.



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