Claretha Best didn’t have the normal warning signs for heart disease. She just thought she was stressed out.

“I thought I had indigestion, heartburns,” said the 61-year old food service worker. “My legs would be so tired when I got off from work, I would have to lift them up, put them in the car, that’s how tired I was.”

Claretha was also having trouble keeping her balance. In one year, she fell down five times.

Despite these problems, Claretha didn’t suspect she had heart disease.  But that’s because she didn’t know what to look for, doctors say.

“You’re not looking for something that’s painful,” says Dr. Patricia Davidson, a cardiologist at Washington Hospital Center. “It feels more like discomfort.”

Often times, patients will describe tightness or a squeezing sensation without pain. But that’s a classic description of heart disease.

If you’re not paying attention, or paying attention to something else, say doctors, you may dismiss the symptoms altogether.

“Women are also notorious for taking care of absolutely everybody but themselves,” says Dr. Jennifer Ellis, a cardiac surgeon at Washington Hospital Center. “And they don’t want to hear about it being their heart.”

That’s exactly what happened with another heart disease patient, Carolyn King.

Carolyn, 68, was so busy caring for her dying husband that she didn’t realize she wasn’t taking care of herself.

“When you have love ones sick,” says Carolyn, “you don’t really stop and think about what’s going on with your body. But I was so, so tired. I went to scrub the floor … on my knees, and could not get up. I had to roll over to the steps.”

Those signs of fatigue are important indicators, say doctors.

They suggest paying attention to how you feel – like, whether you’re too tired to do your typical activities like housework, work, or shopping.

The message, doctors say, is simple: Listen to your heart.

For more information about the symptoms of heart disease in women, get a free listen to your heart kit today. Call 202.877.DOCS, or go to

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