(NBC News) Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women.
Symptoms between the sexes can differ.
“The presentation and the way doctors think about it, is really based on the bias of old studies where we’ve looked at mostly men having heart attacks, not realizing that women have actually the equal risk or even a higher risk,” says cardiologist Dr. Sanjeev Gulati.
The most common symptom is chest pain or tightness, but for women, it may not be the most severe.
They’re more likely to experience other symptoms like indigestion, back or jaw pain, and fatigue or shortness of breath.
“If, every day you’re walking the dog and you can walk around the block and all of a sudden you are halfway through that and you’re having more shortness of breath, you stop and it kind of goes away or gets better pretty quickly. Those are things that we would look for,” Dr. Gulati says.
Both men and women can reduce their risk by maintaining healthy weights, exercising and eating well, and managing conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol.
Quitting smoking also helps.
Heart attacks tend to strike women later in life than men.
According to the American Heart Association the average age for a first attack in a man is 65; for a woman, it’s 72.
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