Heart Disease in Women: National Wear Red Day

I’m wearing red today, to mark the tenth anniversary of National Wear Red Day. Established by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, each year on the first Friday in February, women and men wear red to draw attention to heart disease in women.

According to the Heart Association, tremendous strides have been made, including:

  • 21% fewer women dying from heart disease.
  • 23% more women aware that it’s their No. 1 health threat.
  • Publication of gender-specific results; established differences in symptoms and responses to medications; and women-specific guidelines for prevention and treatment.
  • Legislation to help end gender disparities.

Heart attack symptoms in women and men

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
  • Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

The most common heart attack symptom for both sexes is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely to experience: 

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
  • Extreme fatigue

Because the symptoms may be subtle, too often women will think they just have indigestion or the flu.

If you suspect that you are having a heart attack, don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help. Call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women, yet many aren’t aware of the risks or the symptoms of a heart attack. Preventable risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity

The Heart Association has an interactive heart attack risk calculator that can help you assess your risk and recommend an action plan.

Don’t just wear red today. Learn as much as you can about heart disease and how you protect yourself and the other women (and men) you care about.

Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane was the health reporter on WCSH 6. Before that, a radiation therapist at Maine Medical Center and after, Manager of Marketing/PR at Mercy Hospital. She now hosts and produces the Catching Health podcast and writes the award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.