Heart problems, cardiovascular disease, and heart attacks are all issues predominantly associated with men’s health, yet coronary heart disease is the #1 killer for both men and women in the United States.
Heart problems in women can manifest themselves differently, and for different reasons than heart problems in men which leads to the misconception that heart disease is a man’s problem only.
Women need to take just as many precautions to avoid heart disease as men.
Then what’s the big deal with gender difference?
By understanding and recognizing the signs of heart problems in women, you’ll see heart problems in women are a greater cause for concern than you think.
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The Facts about Heart Problems in Women
The facts are alarming, but most of us don’t realize the problem is as big as it is for both women and men.
- Every year, 1 in 4 women die of heart disease
- Heart disease kills more women than breast cancer and lung cancer combined
- The death rate of African American women due to heart disease is greater than the death rate of white women
- More women than men die within one year of having a heart attack
The Risk Factors are Different for Women
Several risk factors for heart disease are common for both men and women including a lack of physical activity, a poor diet and genetics. However, women face a few other risk factors when it comes to heart disease.
- Mental health problems will increase the risk of heart disease in women more than in men
- Women tend to be less active than men, so their risk due to inactivity is greater
- Pregnancy can provide complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes. These increase the risk for cardiovascular disease in women
- Metabolic syndrome poses a greater risk for women
Menopause and Heart Disease in Women
Research shows aging and loss of estrogen in women after menopause may contribute to higher risk for heart disease. This is because:
- The walls of blood vessels change, and therefore increase the risk of clots
- Increase in fibrinogen, a substance that helps blood to clot
- Changes in fat levels in blood, resulting in an increase of LDL or bad cholesterol.
Heart Attack Signs Are Different for Women
Heart attack symptoms often include chest pain, shortness of breath, or pressure in the chest for both men and women. However, heart attack signs in women can be more sneaky and even more severe.
- Pain in the right arm
- Nausea or vomiting
- Neck, jaw, shoulder discomfort
Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease in Women
Taking the appropriate precautions and steps to improve your health can be key to reducing your risk for heart disease. The following typically applies to both men and women looking to reduce their risk for heart disease.
- Know family history
- Manage blood sugar
- Eat healthy
- Don’t skip doctor’s appointments
- Stay active
- Get cholesterol levels and blood pressure under control
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