It is scary to think that heart disease is the the no.1 killer of women! You can lower your chance of heart disease and a heart attack by taking simple steps. Here are some facts about heart disease in women, symptoms to watch out for, some common myths and what women can do to prevent heart disease. Because knowledge is power.
Women and heart disease – Did you know that…
- Heart disease is considered a man’s disease, but the number of deaths shows no gender bias.
- The risk of heart disease increases based on lifestyle choices and conditions including diabetes, obesity, unhealthy eating habits, lazy lifestyle and too much alcohol consumption
- Two major risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and smoking. High levels of LDL or bad cholesterol clogs the arteries leading to heart disease and stroke. Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol and quitting smoking can help lower the risk.
So what are the symptoms of heart disease in women?
Often, there are none. Sometimes, symptoms may manifest as a sharp chest pain with heaviness and discomfort, pain in the neck/jaw and throat area, or abdominal pain and back pain. There is a pretty good chance it might go undiagnosed until the following happen:
- A heart attack with chest pain, upper back pain, indigestion and heartburn, nausea, exhaustion, breathlessness
- Fluttering feeling in the chest or arrhythmia
- Numbness in the face, arms and legs, particularly one side of the body, weakness, difficulty in moving, confusion, speech issues, blurry vision, breathlessness, dizziness, inability to coordinate, unconsciousness, severe heaches which result in a stroke.
Let’s bust some common myths about women and heart disease
- Heart disease is a man’s disease and the real threat for women is cancer
Truth is, more women die from heart disease than men and this is deadlier than cancer. In fact, there’s one death a minute with one in every three women dying of heart disease while cancer claims one in 31 women.
- Heart disease happens to the elderly
Truth is, there’s no age bar for heart disease. In younger women who smoke and use birth control pills, the risk of heart disease goes up by 20 per cent. Age is another risk factor along with overeating, an inactive lifestyle, all of which can gradually result in the accumulation of plaque and clogged arteries. Even in healthy people, congenital heart conditions can pose a risk.
- Women who are fit don’t get heart disease
Truth is, you could be leading a perfect life conscious about fitness, but that doesn’t eliminate the risk of heart disease. There are factors like cholesterol, diet and smoking that can go against you. Even skinny people can have high cholesterol. Ideally, if you have a family history of heart disease, you must get your cholesterol at least when you are 20, if not earlier. It is a good idea to watch your blood pressure as well as there are usually no symptoms of imbalance.
- There are no symptoms
Death due to heart disease can be without a single symptom. Since the symptoms manifest differently between men and women, they can often be misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, acute chest pain is not always a sign of heart attack. The reality is that women usually experience breathlessness, nausea accompanied by vomiting and back or jaw pain. Women must also watch out for dizziness, fainting, lower chest pain, upper abdominal pain and fatigue.
- I have a family history of heart disease. I can’t do anything about it.
Truth is, while this puts you at risk, you can certain be proactive in reducing this risk and keep your heart healthy.
How to lower the risk of heart disease and heart attack?
Here are some tips that you can use right away. Maintain a healthy lifestyle via the following:
- A healthy diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk and milk products, foods low in saturated fats, cholesterol salt and added sugars.
- Regular exercise with at least 30 minutes, five days a week. Here are 100 reasons to make exercise a habit.
- Quit smoking
- Limit alcohol use. Too much leads to long term health issues that include heart disease and cancer. Hence, drink in moderation, restricting yourself to not more than once a day. If you are pregnant, don’t drink.
- Does your family history put you at risk for heart disease and stroke? Consult your physician about appropriate steps to take.
- If you have an existing medical condition, take special care to keep them in control. Make sure you manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
- If you are living with type 2 diabetes, take extra-special care to keep your blood sugar in check
Making healthy choices and being aware of the signs can save you from heart disease.
Take action now and stay healthy!