Thanks to greater awareness of women’s heart disease risk and healthcare providers’ increasing focus on cardiac screening as part of primary care for women, the death rate from heart disease has decreased by 30 percent in the United States since 1998.
Long considered a “man’s disease,” the reality is heart disease is an equal opportunity killer. Five times as many women die from heart disease than breast cancer each year. Movements such as Go Red for Women help to shed light on the importance of women’s heart health. Heart disease is a classic example where gender matters. A woman’s symptoms are often different than a man’s, women don’t recover as well as men after undergoing certain heart-related procedures and women are more likely to die within a year of having a heart attack.
It’s important to know your risk factors for heart disease. “Heart disease is preventable 80 percent of the time,” says Dr. Rachel Bond, cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital. “While we can’t control our family history, there are plenty of things we can do to take charge of our heart health.”
A risk factor is anything that increases your chance of getting heart disease, now or sometime in the future. Traditional risk factors that you can’t change include:
Risk factors you can change include:
It is important to realize risk factors that are specific or more prominent in women, such as:
Treatment for breast cancer with chemotherapy agents or radiation therapy
Because heart disease can strike at any age, all women are encouraged to schedule a yearly well-woman visit with their healthcare provider to assess their heart disease risk. Early signs of heart disease can be diagnosed and are often treatable to greatly minimize the chance of a cardiac event.
When many of us think of a heart attack, we envision a man experiencing crushing chest pain. Yet, symptoms in women can be more subtle. Often, women complain of neck, jaw, shoulder or arm pain, nausea, lightheadedness or extreme fatigue. In other words, the symptoms can be confusing or overlooked. Because of this, women tend to show up in emergency rooms later than men, after heart damage has already occurred.
Without a doubt, the best defense against heart disease is to be empowered. By taking charge of your health and being knowledgeable about risks and symptoms, you can successfully battle against the leading killer of women.
Knowledge is power. Join us at one of our Go Red events to find out more about how to take charge of your heart health. At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at (855) 850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.