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Heart Disease Health Center

Women and Heart Disease: Key Facts You Need to Know

Experts share information about symptoms and risks that even the most health-savvy people may not know.
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The WebMD Women's Heart Health Quiz continued...

4. True or False: A stomachache, nausea, vomiting, or unexplained sweating and fatigue can all be signs of a heart attack in women. 

Answer: True.  While the "classic" signs of a heart attack -- like crushing chest pain and pain down the left arm -- can still occur in women having a heart attack, Woynarowski says women are more likely to present with "atypical" symptoms -- including gastrointestinal upset, pain in the jaw, shoulder, or upper back, or sometimes just extreme fatigue.

"Women don't necessarily have the 'classic' symptoms of heart attack -- one reason it sometimes gets overlooked, even by doctors," says Woynarowski.

In terms of symptoms of heart disease, Shin says look for signs such as unusual shortness of breath or sudden changes in your level of activity. "If you're a regular exerciser and run 5 miles a day and suddenly you can only run 1 mile a day, that's something to pay attention to. If you find yourself getting nausea and having an upset stomach and vomiting every time you exert yourself, that's something you need to talk to your doctor about," says Shin. 

5. True or False: Heart palpitations, flutters, or rapid heartbeat can sometimes be a sign of heart disease -- but not always.

Answer: True.  While any heartbeat-related problems could be an indication of heart disease, experts say this is not a hard-and-fast rule. Sometimes they can also be clues to other ailments or problems not related to heart health.

"What I find is that symptoms from the heart can also give you clues to other conditions, particularly when it comes to palpitations, or skipped or fluttering heartbeats. The problem could be linked to an overactive thyroid, to hormonal changes in menopause, to signs that you are experiencing increased stress, or that you're overcaffeinated. It may not be heart disease, but looking into the health of your heart may help you find and solve other problems that are causing your heart symptoms," says Goldberg.

6. True or False: A hot flash is always a sign of menopause and never the sign of a heart problem.

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