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Speak up, ladies

Women tend to push aside their heart disease symptoms.

Article Author: Guest Columnist

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Heart disease symptoms present differently in women
Only about half of women realize that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.

Guest columnist Mona Shah, MD, of Baptist Heart Specialists, is board-certified in both cardiology and holistic medicine.

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. 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 Emergency Room, she is likely to 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:

  1. Chest pain
  2. Fatigue
  3. Shortness of breath
  4. Jaw pain
  5. Nausea
  6. Sweating
  7. Arm pain

Know your risks for heart disease

Some factors put certain women at higher risk for heart disease, including:

  1. Ethnicity (African Americans are at the highest risk)
  2. Age
  3. Family history (although sometimes we can reduce the impact of our inherited genes with lifestyle modifications)
  4. Being overweight/obese
  5. High blood pressure
  6. Diabetes
  7. Tobacco use (even e-cigarettes and vaping)
  8. Lack of physical activity
  9. High cholesterol
  10. Stress

What can you do?

First, 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 (blood pressure, fasting glucose, body mass index and cholesterol).

Work on losing weight to help bring down blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose levels, and inflammatory markers. Get moving. 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.

Listening to your heart could save your life

The Baptist Heart Specialists team is known for its compassion in helping people with heart disease live their lives to the fullest.

Request an appointment

To read more about holistic cardiology from Dr. Shah, visit her personal blog at drmonashah.wordpress.com. All information in Dr. Shah's blog represents her own content and opinions, and do not represent those of Baptist Health.

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