What women need to know about heart disease

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women —  and they should be aware of signs and symptoms that might not be top of mind.

“Heart disease in women, and particularly heart attacks in women, look very different to the way they do in men. They are not your typical Hollywood heart attacks,” said Celina Gorre, CEO of

Signs of heart attack in women can include nausea, severe fatigue, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and a fluttering heart.

“These are things that you’ve not recognized in yourself before, you know, symptoms that just feel really out of whack. That’s important to pay attention to and to talk to a health care provider about,” she said.

Only about half of American women know heart disease is their No. 1 health risk.

Celine Gorre, CEO of WomenHeart

“Decreasing levels of awareness that heart disease is the number one killer of women is probably the number one risk factor to women overall,” she said.

Risk factors can include having diabetes, being overweight or obese, having an unhealthy diet, not being physically active and drinking too much alcohol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Among the top prevention tips for all women: Know your numbers.

“Know what your blood pressure is and cholesterol. You might have high cholesterol, which may also be impacted by genetics and in family history,” Gorre said.

Learning family history of hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, heart disease or stroke is something that can be discussed around the Thanksgiving dinner table.

“This is probably the way to really take advantage of together time during the holidays,” Gorre said.

After more than a year of pandemic and coronavirus-fueled concerns, some people have been skipping routine care and screenings. The message Gorre really wants to get across is the importance of doctor visits.

“See your doctor. It’s important to reestablish that relationship,” she said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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