What Women Can Do to Prevent Heart Disease


Our third installment of our Women’s Health Month series features Azadeh Toofaninejad, DO, a cardiologist with Dignity Health Mercy Medical Group, sharing guidance on how heart disease affects women. Dr. Toofaninejad addresses symptoms to look out for, risk factors and lifestyle changes women can make to decrease their risk of heart disease.

Dr. ToofaninejadWhat are heart disease symptoms in women?

Dr. Toofaninejad: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Often, women will have no symptoms of heart disease, and others may experience varying severity of symptoms including:

  • Chest discomfort (also known as Angina)
  • Neck, throat or jaw pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Back or upper abdomen pain

Keep in mind, these symptoms may be mild, and some women may experience them during sleep. While these symptoms may not feel as intense as the debilitating chest pain that often coincides with a heart attack, it’s imperative for women to contact their primary care doctor or ask to be referred to a cardiologist if they are experiencing any of the above symptoms.

What are common risk factors that contribute to heart disease in women?

Dr. Toofaninejad: To help prevent heart disease, we focus on lowering or eliminating common risk factors including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history of premature heart disease

Women who experience complications during pregnancy, are in menopause or have low estrogen levels are also at a higher risk for heart disease. Additionally, inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis and lupus may increase risk.

What lifestyle changes can women make to lower their risk?

Dr. Toofaninejad: Simple lifestyle changes like exercising regularly, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, maintaining a healthy diet and managing stress levels are all ways women can improve their heart health and help prevent heart disease. Embracing a healthy lifestyle can have a significant impact on women’s health.

Knowing the signs of heart disease could save your life, but sometimes there are no symptoms. Contact your primary care physician to discuss your risk for heart disease, or consult our “Find a Doctor” tool to find a Dignity Health Medical Group doctor near you.

Don’t forget to check our Dignity Health Medical Groups Blog for the latest installments of our Women’s Health Month reminders, including insight from physicians specializing in primary care and OB-GYN care.
Learn More About Azadeh Toofaninejad, DO


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