Knowing your family's history of heart disease is important because if you have a close relative with heart disease or diabetes, you are at higher risk for these conditions, too.
Even if you don't have symptoms of heart disease, having a strong family history - particularly if a parent died at a young age of a heart attack - may be enough reason to be checked early to catch problems that may not yet be causing symptoms. In 40 percent of people that develop heart disease, sudden death is the first symptom.
Learn the unique symptoms of heart disease in women.
Chest pain is the most common symptom of heart problems in both men and women, but women are much more likely to also experience subtle symptoms such as headaches, nausea and upset stomach, jaw or neck pain, shortness of breath and generalized fatigue.
Get help immediately. "Research shows that women tend to call for help later than men do, possibly because they don't recognize these atypical symptoms as signaling heart troubles, or possibly because their tolerance for pain is greater," says Dr. Mosca. If you have symptoms and think you might be having a heart attack or stroke, don't delay; call 911.
Have a checkup annually. Report any suspicious symptoms and don't let your doctor dismiss your concerns. If you have two or more risk factors and you are over the age of 50, a stress test can give more clues to your heart health. If the stress test shows signs of potential heart problems, further tests can be ordered.
Get a second opinion. If you feel your doctor is not taking your concerns seriously don't hesitate to find a new doctor.
Lisa Nelson RD: Okay, this was a fantastic answer and I appreciate the detail, but I want to clarify. Are you saying if a woman experiences chest pain and an additional symptom, such as headache, nausea, or shortness of breath they should contact their MD immediately; but if it's just shortness of breath by itself or just neck pain, not such a concern, monitor and watch for any changes. Is that correct?
Dr. Shelby-Lane: If a woman experiences chest pain along with symptoms such as on-going headaches, nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath, they should contact their doctor immediately and/or go to the emergency room, especially if these symptoms are of sudden onset. Symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue and neck pain may also be subtle indicators of heart disease and most women may dismiss these symptoms and never mention them to their doctor, thereby, missing the opportunity to diagnose an underlying heart problem.
To learn more about Dr. Cynthia Shelby-Lane, you can check out the services she offers at www.elanantiaging.meta-ehealth.com.
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