Heart disease might be seen as something that predominantly affects men, but women are not immune to this potentially deadly condition. In fact, doctors and health care professionals advise women to take serious heed of heart disease, which claims more female lives than breast cancer, other cancers, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s disease combined.
The American Heart Association indicates that more women are now aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among females than they were 20 years ago. While just 30 percent of women recognized that in 1997, that figure had risen to 56 percent by 2012. However, the AHA reports that only 42 percent of women aged 35 and older are concerned about heart disease. Initiatives like Go Red for Women in February help shed light on the threat posed by heart disease.
Here are some facts to consider.
• Roughly one female death per minute is attributed to heart disease.
• Heart disease affects women of all ages. The AHA says that the combination of smoking and birth control pills can increase heart disease risk in younger women by 20 percent.
• About 5.8 percent of all white women, 7.6 percent of black women, and 5.6 percent of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.
• When symptoms are present in women, they are not like the stereotypical clutching of the chest that men experience. Heart disease symptoms in women can include upper back pain, chest discomfort, heartburn, extreme fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath.
• Even fit women can be affected by heart disease. Inherent risk factors, such as high cholesterol, can counteract healthy habits.
Women are urged to take various steps to reduce their risk of heart disease:
• Lose weight
• Engage in regular physical activity
• Quit smoking
• Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum
• Get cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly
• Make healthy food choices
• Lower stress levels
• Control diabetes
Taking charge of factors they can control can help women improve their overall health and lower their risk for heart disease. Women also should speak with their doctors about heart disease. Learn more at www.goredforwomen.org.