Cardiovascular disease is still the No. 1 killer of women. In fact, one in four women will die of heart disease compared to one in 30 from breast cancer and all other cancers combined.
We are making progress with awareness but only about half of women realize this fact, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Even though more men have heart attacks than women, women die more often of their heart attack. In fact, it’s twice as likely that a woman under the age of 50 will die if she has a heart attack as opposed to a man.
Why is this happening? There are several reasons. First, women present differently than men. They have less chest pain and more atypical symptoms. If a woman goes to the ER, it is less likely they will be given an EKG and will typically be treated with less urgency.
Women are also less often taken to the cardiac catheterization lab to open up their blockage, and are discharged on less aggressive medicines than men.
Don’t discount your symptoms
Women often push aside their symptoms, chalking them up to stress, being busy, or just getting older. I implore you to pay attention to your body and symptoms especially if you note a change. Signs of heart disease include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Jaw pain
- Arm pain
Risks for heart disease
- Ethnicity – African Americans are at the highest risk
- Family history (Although sometimes we can reduce the impact of our inherited genes with lifestyle modifications)
- Being overweight/obese
- High blood pressure
- Tobacco use (Even e-cigarettes and vaping)
- Lack of physical activity
- High cholesterol
What can you do?
Number one, speak up for yourself and know your body. As women we tend to push our needs aside and not pay attention to our symptoms. Know your numbers and levels (e.g. blood pressure, fasting glucose levels, body mass index and cholesterol).
Work on losing weight to help bring down blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels, and inflammatory markers. Move. Even 30 minutes of walking a day has great benefit. Losing just five pounds of weight can reduce your risk.
Eat more Mediterranean-style food choices to decrease inflammation and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Lower your sugar intake in foods and work on stress and relaxation techniques, including meditation.
Guest columnist and blogger Mona Shah, MD, of Baptist Heart Specialists is the only physician in Northeast Florida who is board certified in both cardiology and holistic medicine. To make an appointment with one of our more than 30 board-certified Baptist Heart Specialists, call 904.202.2222.