It kills more women each year than any other disease. It also causes more disability than any other disease in women. Every woman – especially those over age 50 – is at risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association points out that almost twice as many women in the US die of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases as from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.
February is National Heart Month and there’s a focused effort underway to raise awareness of the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes – which are different in women than in men. Unfortunately, women are frequently misdiagnosed after suffering a heart attack, because they are not aware of the symptoms.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:
The most common symptom of heart attack in men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, only half of women who have heart attacks have chest pain. Women are more likely to report back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea (feeling sick to the stomach), vomiting, extreme fatigue (tiredness), or problems breathing.
Heart attacks also can cause upper body discomfort in one or both arms, the jaw, or the stomach. Other symptoms of heart attack are lightheadedness and fainting, which occur more often in women than men.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic said that women often show up in the emergency room well after they experience a heart attack because the symptoms are not those most people think of. By then, a lot of damage has already been done to the heart muscle. The clinicians at Mayo urge any woman that experiences the symptoms described above or think she may be having a heart attack to call 911 immediately or get to an emergency room right away.
We all know we need to watch our cholesterol, salt intake, exercise, lose weight, quit smoking, and try to reduce stress. These are risk factors in our control. However, risks such as family history of heart problems should be a red flag for you and your physician.Other heath issues can also put a woman at risk – talk to your doctor about what you can do to reduce your chances of developing heart problems.
The American Heart Association has an excellent downloadable guide on risks and lifestyles. Take a few minutes to look it over and pass it on to other women you care about. Knowing the facts may just help save your life.