For whatever reason, the public seems to be a bit more laissez faire about heart disease in women than men. Perhaps it’s because TV news and Hollywood have portrayed heart disease more in men, or maybe it’s simply because women tend to live longer than men.
Whatever the case, it’s wrong to think that women aren’t at risk for heart disease. Dr. Hesham Fakhri, our board-certified cardiologist at Vein, Heart, and Vascular Institute, hopes to spread awareness about heart disease in women with these four key facts.
1. Heart disease is not a man’s disease
You might think of heart disease as a man’s disease. After all, men are more likely to be overweight, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
But the statistics show otherwise: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in this country. Heart disease kills more women each year than cancer, yet according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 56% of women recognize heart disease as a leading killer.
2. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed
When it comes to heart attacks specifically, women may receive misdiagnoses more than men. This happens largely because women either experience nonstereotypical symptoms, don’t take their symptoms seriously, or attribute their symptoms to something else.
In particular, women may experience jaw, neck, or back pain, none of which typically sounds the alarms for a heart attack. You should pay extra attention to any unusual or sudden-onset symptoms.
3. Heart disease doesn’t discriminate based on age
While age is a risk factor for heart disease, the Mayo Clinic reports that all women — even those under age 65 and especially those with a family history of heart disease — can develop heart disease and should maintain awareness.
4. Women have additional risk factors
Women may have a higher risk of developing heart disease during pregnancy and menopause.
During pregnancy, women may develop high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. If this happens, it increases a woman’s risk of long-term hypertension or diabetes, both of which increase the risk of heart disease.
During menopause, low levels of estrogen affect small blood vessels and can increase your risk for heart disease.
Reduce your risk of heart disease
To prevent heart disease, adopt some basic lifestyle habits that keep your body healthy. You should:
- Exercise for 150-300 minutes per week (2.5 to five hours)
- Eat heart-healthy foods, such as nuts and seeds, olive oil, and whole grains
- Avoid overly processed foods that are high in transfats, such as fast food
- Keep stress levels to a minimum
- Limit alcohol and don’t smoke
Your exercise program doesn’t have to be exhausting. Even low-intensity exercise can help.
Do you have questions about heart disease in women? Schedule a consultation with Dr. Fakhri by calling our Tampa or Wesley Chapel, Florida, vein clinic or requesting your appointment online.