Fatigue is a distinct characteristic of cardiovascular disease in women, according to recent research. In one study of 515 female heart attack survivors, 70 percent reported unusual fatigue in the weeks before; just 57 percent had acute chest pain. In another study, fatigue was a symptom for women with dangerously clogged arteries that escaped notice on heart scans.
Why it's overlooked: Only one in ten women realizes that heart disease is her biggest health threat. And emergency room doctors are six times more likely to give women with serious heart problems (as opposed to men) a clean bill of health.
Other Symptoms: Shortness of breath. Indigestion. Pain in your shoulder, arm, or jaw. But for many women, nothing at all.
Tests: Your doctor will order an exercise stress test or angiogram if she suspects clogged arteries in your heart. Because that test isn't always accurate in women, she may order a CT scan or echocardiogram as well. She'll also test your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar—diabetes can quadruple a woman's heart risk.
Treatment: You may get a cholesterol-lowering statin and medicines to treat blood pressure, such as diuretics. You'll also be advised to follow a heart-healthy diet and get regular exercise.
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