How Stress and Heart Attacks Affect Women Differently

Holding heart, vertical

Kamala Tamirisa, MD, says that the heart is the most important organ in the body. Though as a cardiologist, she admits she’s biased.

In honor of American Heart Month, Dr. Tamirisa led a heart health chat on Facebook February 9, taking questions from participants on a wide range of heart issues–from heart disease prevention to symptoms of a heart attack.

One question that kept popping up was the difference in heart health between men and women. Indeed, Dr. Tamirisa admitted that stress and heart attack symptoms often work differently among the sexes. Here’s how:

Women and Stress

“Women tend to have thinner vessels when compared to men; that’s how we’re built,” says Dr. Tamirisa. “In women, stress and anxiety can narrow down the heart vessels.” This narrowing of the blood vessels means that the heart gets less blood supply, which could lead to a heart attack.

“It’s a very good idea to try relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga or whatever is helpful to relax the mind, and to avoid depression and anxiety disorder,” advises Dr. Tamirisa.

Women and Heart Attacks

Women tend to have some of the same heart attack symptoms as men: Crushing chest pain, radiating arm pain and jaw pain. But women may also experience other symptoms, including “worsening fatigue, nausea, palpitations and dizziness,” says Dr. Tamirisa. Women, especially those with associated heart disease risks, shouldn’t ignore these symptoms.

Why do women often miss the signs of a heart attack? Families are often at the forefront of women’s minds. “Health is last on our list,” admits Dr. Tamirisa. “We need to change that.”

Again, Dr. Tamirisa advises that women take time for themselves, manage stress and take note of any health changes that could be the warning sign of a heart attack or other issue.

Learn more from Dr. Tamirisa by watching the recorded Facebook Live video below!

Take control of your heart health: Visit promedica.org/heart for more information, tools and tips about heart health. Or ask your heart-related question in the comments below!

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