According to the American Heart Association, the more a woman knows about heart disease, the better chance she has of beating it. Even so, many women often put their own health on a back burner so they can focus on meeting the needs of their families. The reality is, though, that women who take care of their own heart health are in a much better position to take care of others.
Here are 5 things all women need to know about heart disease:
- It’s the No. 1 killer of women. Heart disease is the cause of one of every three deaths of women each year. By comparison, one out of 31 deaths are attributed to breas
- t cancer.
- The warning signs of a heart attack are different for women than for men. Many people think of chest pain as being the classic sign of a heart attack. But for women, the signs may also include sweating, uncomfortable pressure, nausea, or pain in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- It is possible to have a “silent” heart attack. All too often, women brush off symptoms such as fatigue or indigestion as being related to things like stress, aging or a case of the flu, when in reality, blood flow to the heart may have been been blocked. These women may not discover that they had a heart attack until weeks or even months later.
- 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. These include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, being overweight and being physically inactive.
- On average, Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics. Only one in three Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
What you can do:
- Talk to your doctor about heart disease regardless of your age. A 2012 report found that younger women are less likely to bring up the subject with their doctors.
- Manage your risk factors. If necessary, take steps to reduce your cholesterol, lose weight, stop smoking, eat a healthy diet and start exercising on a regular basis
- Know the warning signs of a heart attack in women and seek treatment immediately if you experience one or more of them. Resist the urge to just “explain them away” because you’re too busy.
- If you have been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect, be sure to schedule regular follow-up care. You’re not alone – as many as 1.3 million Americans today are living with some form of congenital heart defect.
- Don’t be shy about having a discussion with your doctor about heart disease and its impact on your sex life. If you’ve been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, your doctor can evaluate you to determine when it’s safe to resume sexual activity and advise you on topics such as birth control and medications.
- If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, have your doctor evaluate you for cardiovascular disease. The incidence of maternal cardiovascular disease is increasing, likely due to increasing maternal age, risk factors such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension, and the increased survival rates of patients with congenital heart disease.
Above all, if you have any questions about heart disease and your risk factors, don’t hesitate to discuss them with your doctor. If you, like so many women, serve as the heart of your family, it’s important to protect your own heart. Your family will thank you!