Five “Chameleon” Symptoms of Heart Disease
By Dr. von der Lohe
It’s a “chameleon” that takes the shape of the symptoms of other illnesses. Often, it can go undiagnosed or untreated, even though it kills more women than all cancers combined.
Heart disease affects more than 1 in 3 U.S. women, yet many will brush off its symptoms as nothing more than extreme fatigue or indigestion. That’s why Dr. Elisabeth von der Lohe, director of the Women’s Heart Program with Indiana University Health Cardiovascular, suggests women who see any of the following symptoms check with their doctor to ensure they’re not indicative of a bigger problem: heart disease.
This is more than simply being tired. Rather, extreme fatigue is something that lasts over an extended period of time and inhibits you from doing even simple things, like going up and down the stairs or doing laundry. For the elderly, it can mean passing out entirely.
Shortness of breath
We all experience shortness of breath at times; however, when a woman experiences breathlessness while walking, it can be a telltale sign of heart disease. That said, it’s still difficult to determine whether this is a sign of heart disease or just overexertion, so your physician will also likely look to see if you have other risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol, and a family history of heart disease.
We’re not just talking about indigestion after a heavy meal – although, that can be a sign of heart disease – rather, we’re concerned if it occurs while exercising, walking, or even climbing the stairs.
So many young women faint and it’s usually due to anxiety, but fainting can be an indicator of heart disease, especially in those ages 70 and up.
Nausea and vomiting among diabetics
Some patients who are diabetic lack an appropriate flow of oxygen to the heart. This is rare, but is also sometimes a sign of heart disease.
Source: Indiana University Health Cardiovascular
Dr. von der Lohe is regarded in the Connolly Guide as one of the top cardiologists in the country for women’s health. She’s the director of the Women’s Heart Program at Indiana University Health and a professor of clinical medicine with the Indiana University School of Medicine and the Krannert Institute of Cardiology. Learn more at iuhealth.org/heart.