The No. 1 Sign of Poor Health No Woman Should Ever Ignore, Experts Say

For women, this common feeling can be a sign of a number of serious health conditions.

When you aren't feeling your best, it can be hard to determine what warrants addressing with a medical professional and what can just be chalked up to everyday aches, pains, or ailments. Everyone gets the occasional headache and feels completely exhausted now and then. Most of the time, these things are relatively harmless—whether they are brought on by aging, lifestyle choices, or your diet. However, these same common, seemingly innocuous symptoms are often also signs of serious medical issues—especially if they become frequent. And what makes things even more murky is that the same symptom can be a sign of something entirely different depending on if you are a man or woman. That's why it's better to be safe than sorry and address anything unusual with your doctor. According to research, there's one symptom of poor health that women in particular should never ignore: nausea.

According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the cause of one in every five female deaths in the United States. And even though that makes the disease the number one killer of women in America, only about half of all women are aware of that fact, the CDC says. This is not only a result of heart disease being more typically associated with men amongst the general public, but also because women often experience symptoms that are more subtle—and sometimes entirely different—than those experienced by men. Some of those being nausea, vomiting, or an upset stomach, which have been widely reported as a sign of a heart attack and other types of heart disease unique to women.

Middle-aged woman clutching her chest in pain on the couch

The Mayo Clinic states that women are more likely than men to experience heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain—which is what most men experience and what most people likely consider the tell-tale sign of having a heart attack. Among those symptoms identified by the Mayo Clinic are nausea, vomiting, and indigestion. The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute (NIH) also notes: "Common signs and symptoms for women include nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, abdominal pain, sleep problems, fatigue, and lack of energy."

And according to a study conducted by the National Institute of Nursing Research, "the symptoms [of heart disease] for women are more subtle and difficult to recognize, often appearing more like stomach problems or indigestion." That's not to say chest pain doesn't occur in women having a heart attack, it's just not as common.

"Women can certainly experience classic heart attack symptoms like severe chest pain, but they're also more likely to have a heart attack that has an atypical presentation," Nate Favini, MD, chief medical lead at primary care company Forward, previously told Best Life. This what makes it harder for women to recognize a heart attack before it is too late.

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Stomach symptoms like nausea, vomiting, or indigestion are especially tricky for women because while they can be a subtle sign of a serious heart condition, they can also be brought on by number of other causes that women write off as regular and non life-threatening, such as migraines, stress, pregnancy, and menstruation, Women's Health says. However, these particular symptoms can be signs of additional serious conditions, such as cervical cancer—so they should always be addressed ASAP. And for steps you can take to improve your well-being, check out the 100 Easy Ways to Be a (Much) Healthier Woman.

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