Are you aware of your heart disease risk? Most women have at least one risk factor and still believe heart attacks are only for men. Raise your awareness and debunk these five myths about women’s heart health.
Myth: Heart Disease is More Common in Men. Women Need to Worry More About Breast Cancer.
Fact: More women die annually from heart disease than breast cancer. That breast cancer is a perceived higher risk is not based in fact. Heart disease is in fact the leading cause of death in women over the age of 65, just like it is for men. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer yearly, heart disease kills one out of 3 women. That’s roughly a death a minute!
Myth: Signs of Heart Attacks are the Same For Men and Women.
Fact: Heart disease is so dangerous in women because the symptoms are often unknown and untreated. Of all the myths, this one is the most dangerous. While some women experience the classic symptoms, two-thirds of women’s heart attack deaths occur in women with no reported chest pain. Many women feel shortness of breath, upper back pressure, flu-like symptoms, weakness and lightheadedness. Some women report a feeling of indigestion and heartburn. These symptoms may present subtly and be mistaken for other health conditions. Women also tend to attribute the symptoms of heart attack to other causes and then ignore, justify or self-diagnose pain. It is important to seek medical help if you are experiencing any pain or symptoms out of the ordinary. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any unusual or strange symptoms.
Myth: Heart Disease Only Occurs in Older Women Post-Menopause.
Fact: Women of all ages may be at risk for heart disease. While the risk of heart disease increases significantly after menopause, each year tens of thousands of American women under the age of 55 suffer from heart attacks. Many of the risk factors for heart disease are out of our control - heredity, race and age. However, some risks can be screened for and measures can be taken to lower your risk. The American Heart Association recommends that women have regular screenings to check blood pressure, blood cholesterol, body mass index, and waist circumference starting at the age of 20. It is also important to know that healthy diet and exercise regularly lowers one's risk for heart disease.
There are two opportunities in a woman’s life when you can increase your awareness of heart disease risk: Pregnancy and Menopause. The first is during pregnancy. Women who suffer from gestational diabetes or preeclampsia raise their risk for developing heart disease. If you have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, now is the time to make healthy life choices to change your lifestyle and lower your risk later on. Menopause is another ideal time to discuss your risks for heart disease with your doctor.
Myth: Women are More Likely to Survive Heart Attacks.
Fact: Heart attacks are not always fatal, however women are more likely to die than men. Forty-two percent of women who survive heart attacks die within one year, while twenty-four percent of male heart attack survivors die. For women under 50, heart attacks are twice as fatal in women as in men. It is thought that one potential reason for this is that women do not seek the proper care after a heart attack. If you survive a heart attack, it is of utmost importance to discuss proper follow-up care with your doctor.
Myth: Active Women don’t Suffer from Heart Disease.
Myth: While exercise does reduce your risk for heart disease, it doesn’t eliminate your risk entirely. Other risks such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, poor diet, smoking, being overweight, having diabetes or other health conditions, family history and age all play into your risk for heart disease.