The 4 Most Common Heart Problems for Women

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. To make matters worse, nearly two-thirds, or 64%, of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease experience no previous symptoms. Gaining a better understanding of which heart problems commonly affect women by talking to your cardiologist can help you take steps to reduce your risks.

  1. Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease, and occurs when LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) creates plaque build-up in your arteries.

CAD has no symptoms in its early stages. However, when plaque build-up becomes large enough to restrict blood flow, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue

A large percentage of women do not experience chest pain, which can make it difficult to detect this condition.

If plaque build-up is left unchecked, it may rupture and cause a blood clot to form in an artery. When a clot forms, it blocks the artery and blood is unable to deliver oxygen to part of your heart, damaging some of the heart’s muscle. This is what’s known as a heart attack, or a myocardial infarction.

  1. Hypertension

Nearly half of women over the age of 45 have high blood pressure, or hypertension. This condition develops slowly over time as elevated blood pressure makes your arteries less flexible. When arteries lose some of their flexibility, it becomes more difficult for your blood to flow through. Blood vessels can also become damaged, which can lead to blindness or kidney failure.

Hypertension can also trigger the formation of plaque, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

  1. Congestive Heart Failure

Despite its name, being diagnosed with congestive heart failure doesn’t necessarily mean that your heart has stopped working.

Whether you realize it or not, your heart is a muscle that contracts and relaxes to continuously pump blood to your organs. When your heart becomes damaged or stiff, or something compromises your heart’s ability to pump blood properly, this is known as congestive heart failure.

When congestive heart failure occurs, the heart is unable to pump enough blood, or it’s pumping at too high of a pressure and causes fluid to back up into your lungs, abdomen, ankles and other parts of your body.

The following symptoms are associated with congestive heart failure:

  • Swelling in the legs
  • Swelling in the ankles
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse when lying flat
  1. Arrhythmia

Arrhythmia occurs when the heart beat is too slow, fast or irregular. There are a few different types of Arrhythmia, including:

  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia: indicates a fast heartbeat
  • Atrial fibrillation: indicates an irregular and sometimes rapid heartbeat
  • Premature ventricular contractions: indicates that your heart is skipping beats

Arrhythmia can be diagnosed by your doctor when listening to your heartbeat.

These are four of the most common heart conditions that affect women. Making lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking, can help reduce your risk of developing these conditions.