Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States. One in four female deaths will be due to some form of heart disease. Possibly the scariest part is that only 54 percent of women actually recognize the danger. While most women are scared of breast cancer, heart disease kills six times as many women. This idea could be due to the late onset of heart disease in women or the fact that the symptoms are not always the same as men.
Knowing the Signs
Many women don’t know the signs or just want to dismiss them as being hormones or “just getting older” since the average age for a first heart attack for women is 70. As a result, they do not talk to their physician about their symptoms. The most common symptoms can start showing up to a month prior to a cardiac event. If you have any of these, you need to talk to your doctor:
- Unusually tired – more than just a long day. You feel like you can barely move. This sometimes is accompanied by not being able to sleep despite being exhausted.
- Trouble breathing –shortness of breath after normal activities such as climbing a single flight of stairs.
- Persistent indigestion – antacids aren’t working and you still have a burning sensation in your upper chest
- Heart racing or palpitations – feels like your heart is fluttering or skips a beat. It can also make you feel flushed.
- “Funny” arms – pain, coldness, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your arms can be a sign of poor circulation caused by heart problems.
Prevention is the Key
Research has shown that the treatment for heart disease in women should be completely different than men. Women do not generally respond as well as men to block busting drugs and generally have thinner arteries which complicate angioplasties. The good news is most cases of heart disease are preventable. With a few simple changes in your life you can drastically reduce your risk.
- No more fast food – take the time each week to grocery shop, and cook fresh balanced meals.
- Limit Alcohol intake – more than 14 drinks in a week can cause problems, but red wine in moderation can actually help combat heart problems.
- Keep Moving – regular exercise is not only good for circulation and heart strength, but is also good for your stress levels.
- Monitor your levels – keep track of your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels and work with your doctor to keep them under control.
Remember that it is never too late to start taking care of yourself and working toward a healthier heart.
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