According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the U.S., averaging annually around 1 out of every 5 female deaths. That statistic applies to women of color as well as whites, American Indians, or Alaskan Natives. Statistically, only Hispanic and Asian or Pacific Islander women die from cancer more than heart disease.
Heart Disease Targets Women MORE Than Men
The most common form of heart disease is coronary heart disease, and in the U.S. around 1 in 16 women age 20 and older have it.
That’s ONE in 16 women over the age of 20!!
However, whenever we hear about heart disease, heart attacks, and general death statistics related to the heart, it seems that most people generally think of men and not so much about women. As it turns out, heart disease actually kills more women than men every year.
Symptoms Of Heart Disease Or A Heart Attack Can Be Different For Women
One of the reasons may be that the symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks are different for men and women, so women don’t seek out medical assistance as quickly. Some women have no symptoms while others have some of the more commonly known ones:
- Angina – dull and heavy or sharp chest pains or other discomforts
- Pain in the back or upper abdomen
- Pain in the throat, neck, or jaw
While these symptoms may occur during regular daily activities or while resting, there are other symptoms, including nausea, vomiting, dizziness, shortness of breath, indigestion, upper body discomfort, and fatigue. Sounds like just another day for mothers and office workers, right?
In fact, since most women over 60 years old are not likely pregnant, these symptoms may be indications that you are having a heart attack.
If you have heart palpitations, a feeling of fluttering in your chest, your heart is beating irregularly and that is known as arrhythmia.
Swelling of the feet, legs, ankles, neck veins, or abdomen? Do you feel unusual fatigue or shortness of breath? You may be experiencing actual heart failure.
If you have any of these symptoms and especially if you know that you are at risk, you should call 9-1-1 immediately.
How Do You Know If You’re At Risk?
Pay attention to the most common risk factors for heart disease and be honest with yourself.
Some are medical conditions, based on heredity (family history of heart issues?) and many risk factors are personal lifestyle choices:
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical exercise or activities
- Being obese or overweight
- High cholesterol
- Certain chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy
- Pregnancy complications
- Mental stress and depression
- Family history of heart disease
Whether you have any of these risk factors or just want to reduce the chances of having heart disease, there are many things you can do:
- Quit Smoking – Easy to say and tough to do, but there are many remedies and tools on the market to assist you and if you don’t smoke now, don’t start.
- Annual Physicals – When you are visiting your doctor you can discuss getting a standard blood test for cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Limit Alcohol Consumption – Try to limit yourself to no more than one per day. Everyone might like a glass of wine with dinner and during a game, you might end up with more than one or two, but on a regular basis that will definitely raise your risk factors.
- Check Your Blood Pressure – There are no obvious symptoms of high blood pressure and if uncontrolled it can lead to heart disease, so check it regularly. Many pharmacies have stations for a quick check.
- Make Healthy Food Choices – If you look at a national map of heart disease in this country you will see the heaviest concentrations around the southern states, Midwest, and Southwest, where diets high in unnatural fat are prevalent. Eating more fish, chicken, pork, or having a meatless meal once or twice a week will help, and reduce your fried food intake. Get familiar with olive or avocado oils for your salads and cooking, which are far better and healthier than corn or canola oils.
- Take Aspirin – Doctors often recommend that women over 65 years take a daily 81-milligram aspirin if their risk of digestive bleeding is low and their blood pressure is controlled. If you are at risk and under 65 it may also be helpful for stroke prevention, but discuss this with your doctor and don’t do it on your own.
- Take Fish Oil – But be careful. Many fish oil supplements are dirty, damaged oils and won’t give you the support you’re seeking for cardiovascular health. (Here’s a clean one.)
- Manage Stress Levels – There are a few ways to manage stress in natural and healthy ways, from meditation to yoga to Tai Chi and other exercises. Find your zen.
Keep in mind that you are not alone if you have been diagnosed with heart disease and it can be easily managed if you commit yourself to eating properly and living a healthy lifestyle.