It is important to catch the early signs of heart disease, however these signs present in different ways in men and women. For women, age becomes a risk factor at 55, however some women have some form of heart disease at younger ages. Currently, cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects 90% of adults and is the leading cause of death in women. A recent study led by Dr. Cheng of Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston found that CVD affects more “women and blacks than men and whites”. Reasons for the glaring differences in diagnoses between gender and race are still unknown.
The most commonly recognized symptoms are chest pain, pressure or discomfort (angina). Unlike the sign we often see in movies - a man clutching his chest- CVD in women tends to be less obvious, hence it’s commonly called the ‘silent killer’. In both instances, this chest discomfort is caused by the lack of sufficient blood supply to the heart.
What is CVD?
The collective term CVD is used to describe a number of problems affecting the heart and its blood vessels. The most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD) and is the leading cause of heart attacks. Among women, African Americans have higher instances of heart disease. It affects twice as many black women than white women. Some factors contributing this difference include higher rates of obesity or being overweight, higher levels of elevated cholesterol and blood pressure. Limited awareness of the risk factors also add to this statistic.
When it comes to women and heart disease, there are a number of things that you can do now to reduce your risks:
- Eat healthy
- Get checked regularly
- Reading the nutrition facts on the food label can help you make healthy choices.
- Limit foods that have ‘trans fats’ as too much of this can clog arteries and cause heart attacks. Try these healthy budget friendly diets
- Cut back on sugary products. They are also labeled as containing glucose, fructose, sucrose or corn syrup
- Managing health conditions
Common health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure can increase risk of heart disease. Make sure to stay on top of things by:
- Taking your medications as directed; only stop when you're instructed by your doctor
- If you have diabetes, always check your blood sugar level
- Having your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly
- Asking your doctor how you can safely manage your condition when you're pregnant
- Talking to your doctor about what device is better for your heart condition can help manage your condition better
Know The Symptoms Of A Heart Attack In Women
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Unusual upper body discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Unusual and unexplained tiredness
- Sudden dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea - feeling sick to the stomach
The American Heart Association recommends calling 911 immediately if you experience one or more of these heart attack symptoms. It may save yours or the life of someone you love.