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Self: Here’s How Different Heart Failure Stages Impact Your Body

Self recently spoke with Chrisandra Shufelt, MD, MS, associate director of the Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Center at the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, about how heart failure affects women.

By age 40, women have a 1 in 5 lifetime chance of developing the condition, which occurs when the heart fails to effectively pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body, according to the article.

Women are more likely than men to have heart failure with preserved ejection fraction—the heart pumps normally but fails to fill properly. This means that symptoms are less noticeable until the condition progresses. Women also can experience different heart failure symptoms than men do.

"It might not be chest pain," Shufelt told Self. Shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, and pain in the stomach or back could be signs of trouble. 

Shufelt urged women to see a healthcare provider if they experience these symptoms consistently or have contributing risk factors including autoimmune disorders, history of certain chemotherapy drugs, peripartum cardiomyopathy, or viral infection that affects the heart, including COVID-19.

Patients at high risk of developing heart failure might not experience any symptoms at first, but later can progress to full-blown heart disease requiring surgical intervention. Because heart disease can begin decades before symptoms appear, Shufelt stressed the importance of a heart-healthy lifestyle as a means of prevention.

"The habits you develop now will affect your heart 10, 20 or 30 years down the road," Shufelt told Self. "Such habits include regular exercise, eating a Mediterranean-style diet, not smoking, and not being around people who smoke." 

Click here to read the complete article from Self.