In the United States, only one in five women know that heart disease is the greatest threat to women’s health, but one in three women who die this year will die of heart disease. Review the facts about heart disease and make positive changes to your life.
Coronary heart disease (CHD) is caused by a buildup of a fatty substance in the heart called plaque. Every minute, heart disease claims the life of an American woman. This disease has several warning signs, so be on the lookout for:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
Some risk factors for CHD are beyond your control. A family history of heart disease means that you are more likely to develop the disease, and women age 55 or older are at the most risk of developing heart disease. African-American, Hispanic and Native American women are all at a greater risk for heart disease than Caucasian women.
Chest Pain? Maybe
Heart attacks, or the complete blockage of blood flow to the heart, look different in women and men. Chest pain is the most common symptom for both genders, but women often report tightness or squeezing rather than a sharp pain. Women are also more likely to experience:
- Jaw, neck and shoulder pain
- Nausea and dizziness
- Shortness of breath and cold sweats
- Unexplained fatigue and weakness
If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. It is better to be a little embarrassed by a false alarm than to ignore potential symptoms of this life-threatening condition.
Have a Heart-to-Heart With Yourself
This February, do more than learn about heart disease—take action. Talk with your physician about making heart-healthy changes to your lifestyle, such as:
- Staying active. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise can boost your heart health.
- Quitting smoking. Your chances of having a heart attack double if you smoke as few as one to four cigarettes per day, according to Harvard Medical School health reports.
- Eating smarter. Review your dietary habits with your physician. Work to limit trans fats and sodium, and increase the amount of fatty fish (such as salmon), whole grains, and fruits and veggies in your diet.
- Knowing your numbers. Regularly monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol to stay ahead of heart disease.
This article was reviewed by Susan Benson, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., OB/GYN with St.Vincent Medical Group.