Heart Disease is Not Just for Men
If you’ve been thinking heart disease is mainly a manly thing, then here is some news that may jolt you. The rate of heart disease in women in the U.S. is not only higher than men, it is also more likely to go undiagnosed until later stages of the illness — when it is sometimes too late.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among American women, killing more than a third of those who die annually. But because attention and research over many years has focused largely on male heart problems, women have been historically under diagnosed and treated for heart-related conditions.
The good news is, that focus is changing. Many health agencies have been working hard to get the word out regarding heart disease symptoms and risk factors in women.
According to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, 42.7 million women in America are living with some form of cardiovascular disease, including 7.5 million women suffering from coronary heart disease.
More women than men die of cardiovascular disease each year — 26 percent of women will die within one year of a recognized first heart attack, compared to 19 percent of men. And women are still less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment, the coalition states.
Women who are armed with appropriate information on the causes of heart disease have the opportunity to ask questions of healthcare professionals and make healthy lifestyle choices that can significantly cut down their health risks.
Recognize the Signs
The heart specialists of MCMC | OHSU Cardiology at Water’s Edge have provided the following information to help women recognize the signs of heart disease or a heart attack. (For more information on women and heart disease, visit womenshealth.gov.)
There are several health issues that may indicate heart disease in women. They include:
• Fatigue, even after resting all night
• Shortness of breath
• Discomfort in the arm and chest
• Trouble sleeping
• Feeling scared or nervous
• New or worsening headaches
• Back pain
Women experiencing any of those symptoms should tell their doctor they are concerned about their heart.
Signs of a heart attack in women can be the same as those commonly assisted with male heart attacks, including arm, neck, back and jaw pain as well as nausea and shortness of breath. But women may also experience less common and more subtle signs, such as:
• Loss of appetite
• Feeling weak or tired
• Heart flutters
• An achy, tight or “heavy” feeling in the chest or back
• Breaking out in a cold sweat
The more heart attacks signs that are present, the higher the likelihood of a heart problem. Do not wait longer than five minutes to see a doctor.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of cardiovascular disease. They include:
• High blood pressure
• High cholesterol
• Lack of exercise
• History of heart disease in the family
Not smoking, eating healthy foods, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active and working with a doctor to control diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure can all reduce the risk of heart disease.
February is National Heart Month. Click here for information on Go Red For Women’s Heart Health Event.