While overall awareness has increased, women still underestimate their cardiac risk, and heart disease remains the number one cause of death, taking the lives of one in three American women each year.
Most women don’t know their risk or that the signs of heart attack in women can sometimes be different or subtler than in men. The importance of prevention has never been greater.
A family history of cardiovascular disease is a leading risk factor. Other risk factors include smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, obesity and physical inactivity, all of which can be managed with an active and healthy lifestyle.
Symptoms of a heart attack are slightly different in women. Chest pain is the most common sign for men and women, however women are likely to experience additional symptoms unrelated to chest pain such as nausea, neck and arm pain, dizziness, shortness of breath or fatigue.
Also, women tend to minimize their symptoms. Generally, women are used to taking care of others and multitasking, so when experiencing out-of-the-ordinary pain, they are more likely to downplay it or disregard it as stress.
Furthermore, types of cardiovascular disease are more varied in women than in men and more difficult to detect. While coronary artery disease, which affects the heart’s blood vessels, is the most common heart disease found in women, females are also more likely than males to get microvascular disease, which affects small blood vessels.
Both men and women should pay special attention to their own heart risk. Speak with your doctor so you don’t wait to start that exercise regime, or add those heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Start prevention early. Knowing your numbers (blood pressure, cholesterol) while in your 20s and keeping those numbers at normal levels can decrease later risk.
Cardiac Disease Prevention
- Know your family history.
- Don’t smoke.
- Exercise at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week (in accordance with your healthcare provider’s directives).
- Eat less saturated fat and salt and opt for a balanced diet including fruits, lean protein and whole grains.
Concerned about your heart health? Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider for a preventive care visit today.