Many people have a common misconception about heart disease: that it affects more men than women. But according to The American Heart Association, heart disease is “the number one killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.” It is estimated that roughly 43 million American women are affected by heart disease and a whopping 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
What Are The Risk Factors?
Many of the common risk factors for heart disease are the same in both women and men. The biggest offenders for heart disease include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- High blood sugar/hypertension
Adopting a healthier lifestyle–which involves making a commitment to lose weight, eat right and exercise–can help keep the risks of heart disease at bay, but there’s no denying that genetics and family history also play a big role in developing heart disease. Marathon runners, CrossFit fanatics and yogis are not immune to developing heart disease. It’s important to have a discussion with your physician if you think you may be at risk for heart disease.
Know the Signs and Symptoms
Whether you think you may be at risk for heart disease or not, the symptoms of heart disease are often overlooked or misunderstood, especially by women. While the most common symptoms include chest pain and numbness in your left arm, there are also heart attack symptoms that are harder to recognize.
It’s critical to learn to listen to your body. Women have the tendency to spend so much of their time caring for others, it becomes easy to forget about caring about yourself. If you are feeling any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to seek medical attention immediately:
- Shortness of breath. Women often experience shortness of breath in the weeks leading up to a heart attack. The same can be said for experiencing lightheadedness for an extended period of time.
- Back pain. Irregular pain in either your upper or lower back can be an indication of stress to your heart muscle.
- Jaw pain. Heart pain can radiate beyond the chest; pain in your jaw, neck, or back is a sign that something isn’t right.
- Stomach Trouble. Nausea, vomiting and other flu-like symptoms have been associated with experiencing a heart episode. In fact, Rosie O’Donnell reported throwing up several times before experiencing a heart attack back in 2012.
- Sweating. It’s one thing to sweat it out at the gym and another to experience the sudden onset of a cold sweat. If your perspiration is related to a problem with your heart, it will feel more stress-related than from overheating.
- Fatigue. Feeling lethargic? Or maybe it feels like the weight in your chest is so heavy you don’t want to move? These are signs that something is off with your body and might be early signs of a heart attack.
Pay It Forward
Heart disease kills one woman approximately every minute. Educating yourself about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack brings you one step closer to saving your life or someone else’s. Pay it forward by sharing this article with a woman you love!