Story
Caring for Your Heart (As A Woman)
May 11, 2022
Rhea Malhotra

National Women’s Health Week is organized by the Office on Women’s Health (OWH) to encourage women “to take steps to improve their overall health.”

Since the founding of Genetesis, our team has had the honor of working with and learning from patients who have shown up to emergency rooms and cardiology offices attempting to do just that.

We’ve learned that knowing the differences in heart attack signs and symptoms between men and women, can be the difference between life or death. To ensure women are taking the appropriate measures in improving their overall health, our team wanted to highlight the differences in signs and symptoms between sexes, to kick off this year’s National Women’s Health Week.

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

We all know to call 911, when experiencing the type of pressure that feels like a baseball bat hitting your chest. Although men and women can experience this type of chest pressure, women more frequently experience a heart attack without that symptom.

Many times, women experience symptoms more aligned with shortness in breath, pressure or pain in the upper back, dizziness and/or lightheadedness.

Symptoms and no diagnosis?

Too often, we’ve heard from patients (predominantly women) who have had numerous cardiology consults and/or trips to the emergency room over the course of DECADES and have come out with no answers. Recently, we’ve learned that this could frequently be because of coronary microvascular disease (CMD). Though the symptoms for CMD are extremely similar to traditional heart disease, the diagnosis is much more difficult. That’s something our team at Genetesis is currently working to change. However, in the meantime, it is clear that the difference between patients that are successful in learning their diagnosis from those who aren’t is persistence and advocating for themselves.

If you’ve had the ongoing symptoms described above, talk to your cardiologist about CMD. The treatment is most commonly medical therapy targeted at relieving pain and controlling risk factors.

Preventing Heart Disease

Although heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, it is preventable. As noted by the American Heart Association:

1. Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn about your personal risk for heart disease.

2. Eat healthy. Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) and hypertension (high blood pressure) are risk factors for heart disease. Being conscious about your diet and making small substitutions can go a long way.  

3. Exercise! Walking and yoga are both great low impact and effective ways to lower your risk.

We’re hopeful learning more about the differences in symptoms between men and women and coronary microvascular disease will help arm you with the information needed to improve your health.