There’s no denying that heart disease is a killer for both men and women, but there are some risks that apply specifically to women. As with many health-related issues, awareness is incredibly important; if you’re aware of the risks, prevention tactics, and symptoms for heart disease, you have a much better chance of avoiding this worldwide leading cause of death.
Even though more women die from heart disease each year than men, many women (nearly half in a recent American Heart Association (AHA) survey) don’t realize that having a heart attack is a serious potential health hazard for them. The AHA states that 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, which is a shocking statistic. Even more startling? Heart disease is the cause of 1 out of every 3 deaths.
While that statistic is incredibly disheartening, there is a silver lining to heart disease that doesn’t necessarily exist for other major health issues: the majority (around 80%) of heart attacks are preventable based on adjusting your lifestyle. They say ‘knowing is half the battle’ – and in this case, knowing may help women avoid the battle completely. Women are more likely to be sedentary and obese than men. And many common risk factors increase women’s heart attack risks much more than men’s. For example, women smokers have a 25% greater risk than men of developing heart disease, and women with diabetes have a 44% greater risk.
If women take the following approach to their general health, they are much more likely to avoid heart issues:
- Sustain healthy blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure levels
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Refrain from smoking and high alcohol intake
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Seek treatment for depression
In addition to understanding how to prevent a heart attack, recognizing the symptoms of a heart attack can be extremely beneficial in reducing the damage to your heart. Most people report feeling an uncomfortable pressure in the center of their chest that becomes hard to ignore. But for some women, heart attack symptoms can be less obvious. Some women feel extremely exhausted, have shortness of breath, or experience pain in one or both of their arms. And sometimes these symptoms are accompanied by nausea or vomiting. Women may tend to ignore these symptoms since they don’t seem as serious as the traditional chest pressure associated with a heart attack, which then makes those women at a higher risk for greater damage to their heart if they were in fact having a heart attack. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms associated with a heart attack, call 911 immediately.
The biggest thing to know about heart disease is that you have a lot of power and control over its wrath. Speak with your doctor about the ways you can take control of your general health and your heart health, so you can help reduce the number of heart attacks occurring each year. To read more about heart disease and women, read this article written by Tania Chao, M.D., a board-certified cardiologist with Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group.