ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Over 30 million American adults were diagnosed with heart disease in 2018. The prevalence of heart disease among women is lessening, but for decades it’s been the number one cause of death for U.S. women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

One in five women will die from heart disease, according to the CDC. Heart disease can take many forms, with coronary artery disease (CAD) being the most common form in the U.S. CAD can decrease blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack.

Risk factors for heart disease

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Women need to understand the risks of heart disease and understand symptoms are not limited to chest pain. They can also include symptoms typical of other ailments like indigestion, the flu, stress, or anxiety, said Dr. Jessica Saunders, a cardiologist at St. Peter’s Health Partners.

Symptoms of heart disease

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen, or upper back
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins

COVID-19 has raised people’s stress levels over the past year and many symptoms of heart disease could also be a sign of anxiety or a panic attack. How can someone tell the difference? The only way to firmly diagnose symptoms like heart disease or anxiety is through a consultation with a doctor and/or an electrocardiogram, said Dr. Saunders.

“Women will often present with what we call atypical symptoms or symptoms that are not the classic textbook description of the crushing chest pain that comes on suddenly.” Symptoms like jaw, neck, arm, upper abdomen/back pain or discomfort “will tend to come on with physical activity or stress and will go away with rest,” she said.

Reduce the risk of heart disease

  • Exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthy
  • See a health care provider regularly

*Source: American Heart Association