According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. Statistics reveal that over 40 million women in the United States are affected by heart disease, and 90 percent have at least one or more risk factors for developing this disease. Only one out of five American women believe that heart disease is the greatest threat to a woman’s health.
To help raise awareness of the threat and risk factors of heart disease in women, the American Heart Association has sponsored National Wear Red Day for nearly a decade. Due to this organization’s efforts, many city monuments and landmarks illuminate in red during the month of February in addition to sponsored events.
Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women
Although the hallmark heart attack signs in men are chest pressure and chest comfort, women tend to display less typical symptoms of a heart attack. The Circulation study on early female heart attack signs and symptoms revealed that about 40 percent of the 515 women in the clinical study displayed no chest pain. In addition, the study revealed that emergency room physicians, many still check for chest pain as a sign of heart attack. Unfortunately, this inaccurate perception leads to a misdiagnosis of the real problem.
The less typical signs of female heart attack include indigestion discomfort, shortness of breath, dizziness, unexplained fatigue, back pain, pressure in the lower chest and nausea. These types of symptoms can appear several weeks before the actual heart attack or on the day of the heart attack without any provocation. Cardiologist Dr. Nieca Goldberg recommends either calling a physician or ambulance if these symptoms appear. Any delay can be fatal.
One of the main advantages of calling an ambulance is immediate emergency medical care. Emergency medical personnel can expedite treatment with heart medication and oxygen. In addition, arriving at the hospital hooked up to a cardiac monitor will ensure that hospital workers take the situation seriously and act quickly.
Risk Factors of Heart Disease in Women
There are a number of risk factors that increase a woman’s chance of developing heart disease. With proper prevention and treatment, up to 80 percent of heart attacks in women can be avoided or eliminated. Cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, physical inactivity, diabetes, weight and menopause are all risk factors for heart disease in women.
High cholesterol has no symptoms, and it’s best to get tested on an annual basis. LDL is the bad cholesterol that can clog the arteries and increase the risk of a heart attack. A diet high in saturated fats often increases LDL. The optimal level of LDL is less than 100 milligrams. Triglycerides are another form of fat that can lead to high LDL levels. Optimal triglyceride levels are also less than 100 milligrams.
High blood pressure is a known silent killer and makes the heart work harder. Untreated, it can damage arteries and lead to a heart attack or heart failure. Menopause and being overweight can cause high blood pressure in women. Along with high blood pressure medication, adopting a healthy lifestyle with a diet low in saturated fats and regular exercise can help reduce high blood pressure and prevent a heart attack. Just a few simple changes can help keep women healthier.