Heart Disease in Women
Heart disease is often thought of as a “man’s disease” but in the United States, it is the leading cause of death in women- ahead of all cancers, accident, and stroke – killing more than 400,000 women a year. Heart attacks are particularly concerning for women because their symptoms tend to be different from men’s. Because women often do not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, they can delay seeking care. According to the American Heart Association, fewer women survive their first heart attack than men. Fortunately, awareness is growing about women and heart disease.
What are the symptoms of heart disease?
Although some women have no symptoms, others may have:
– Angina (dull and heavy or sharp chest pain or discomfort)
– Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
– Pain in the upper abdomen or back
Sometimes heart disease may be “silent” and not diagnosed until you have other symptoms or emergencies, including:
– Heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, and shortness of breath
– Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)
– Heart failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, abdomen, or neck veins
If you have any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 right away.
What are the risk factors for heart disease?
High blood pressure, high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of all people in the United States (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including
– Having overweight or obesity
– Eating an unhealthy diet
– Physical inactivity
– Drinking too much alcohol
Talk to your provider if you have any of these risk factors. Monitor your blood pressure regularly and get checked out for diabetes. Quit smoking, limit alcohol intake, and try to adopt a healthier lifestyle with an improved diet and consistent exercise.