Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine.
Houston Methodist. Leading Medicine

Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates

Heart Disease in Women


Go Red For Women™ presents:
"Just a Little Heart Attack,"
starring and directed by Emmy-nominated actress Elizabeth Banks

The American College of Cardiology reports that over the past 40 years, there has been a striking reduction in deaths from coronary heart disease among men in the United States, but reductions in women have lagged behind.

Fortunately, the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women™ campaign has dramatically increased public awareness of the issue and empowered women across the nation to take charge of their heart health.

» Symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks in women
» Heart conditions unique to women

Symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks in women

The symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks are very different in men and women. While men experience tightness in the chest and pain in the left arm, typical symptoms in women include:

  • Insomnia
  • Indigestion
  • Unexplained or unusual fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Anxiety or feelings of nervousness
  • Nausea

Because these are atypical of "classic" heart attack symptoms, diagnosing heart disease in women can be a challenge for physicians. Women's symptoms—often early warning signs that appear long before a heart attack—are frequently misdiagnosed as stress-related or caused by something other than heart disease.

Keenly aware of women's symptoms, our physicians diagnose heart disease using sophisticated imaging techniques such as echocardiography, nuclear stress tests, heart scanning (calcium scoring), CT coronary angiogram and cardiac MRI. They are also experts at using the latest therapies to control chest pain syndromes in women and, when needed, performing complex surgeries and catheter-based procedures.

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Heart conditions unique to women

In addition to their expertise in recognizing women's symptoms of heart problems, our physicians are also experts in treating heart conditions that are more common in women, including:

  • Diastolic Heart Failure: Twice as common in women as in men, diastolic heart failure can occur when the heart's ventricles (lower chambers) become stiff and cannot fill completely with blood during the "relaxation" phase of the heartbeat (diastole). This causes blood to "dam up" in the lungs, causing shortness of breath, fatigue and fluid buildup.
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP): A common condition in women under 40, MVP occurs when the flaps of the mitral valve (the valve connecting the left atrium to the left ventricle) do not close completely, causing blood to "leak" back into the left atrium.
  • Palpitations: Palpitations are especially common in women during pregnancy and during menopause, and they can be a sign of an arrhythmia.
  • Heart Disorders During Pregnancy: The stress of pregnancy and giving birth can worsen some existing heart conditions and unmask "silent" disorders. If you have a heart condition and are considering becoming pregnant, consult with your physician on whether you are healthy enough.

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For more information about Methodist DeBakey Cardiology Associates or to make an appointment, please call us at 713-441-1100 or 888-361-4375, or contact us online.