There are numerous reasons why women's heart disease risk has long remained misunderstood and underestimated. In addition to a lack of women-focused research, the risk factors and symptoms of the disease manifest themselves differently in women than they do in men. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these differences and spread the word to your friends, as well as to your physician.

Risk factors for heart disease in women:

  • Age over 65
  • Experienced menopause before age 45
  • More than 20 percent over ideal weight
  • Accumulate excess weight in abdomen rather than hips
  • Elevated triglycerides
  • Family history of heart disease
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoke cigarettes
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Under severe stress

Symptoms of heart disease in women:

  • Chest tightness, heaviness or pain
  • Sudden shortness of breath
  • Pain in the shoulders, back, neck or jaw
  • Nausea
  • Breaking into a cold sweat
  • Lightheadedness