Previously thought of as a “man’s disease” for years, heart disease affects about 44 million women in the U.S. Cardiovascular disease and stroke cause one in three three women to die each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds. Cardiovascular diseases also are the leading cause of death for African-American women.
With February marking Heart Health Month, we’ve compiled the information you need to know to keep the hearts of the women in your life healthy.
Heart attack symptoms
A heart attack can appear very different in women compared to men. Although nearly 64 percent of women who die suddenly of coronary disease are non-symptomatic, there are symptoms to be aware of. If you or someone you know is experiencing the following symptoms, seek medical attention immediately:
- Chest discomfort, squeezing or pressure
- New onset shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
- Unusual, unexplained or extreme fatigue
- Nausea and vomiting
Heart disease is more than heart attack
Recognizing the symptoms of other related diseases is equally important.
Arrhythmia – These are heart palpitations and feel like the heart is “fluttering.” Do not ignore these symptoms, as arrhythmias can lead to more serious conditions and complications.
Congestive heart failure – Unlike a heart attack, which is a sudden clogging of an artery to the heart, congestive heart failure is a condition when the heart is ineffective at pumping blood throughout the body. Symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and swelling in the extremities and abdomen.
Syncope – Sudden loss of consciousness can be related to a serious cardiac condition. Seek medical help.
All these conditions require medical attention.
Know your risk
Some of the risk factors for developing heart disease are completely out of our control, such as family history, age (55+), and congenital heart defects. However, a number of risk factors can be avoided. They include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol and
- High triglyceride levels
- Poor eating habits
- Lack of physical activity
- Diabetes and Prediabetes
- Alcohol consumption
Prevention is critical
The first step in preventing heart disease is understanding heart health and when to seek medical care. This February, consider taking one or more of these steps toward heart health:
- Track your blood pressure. Start with a baseline and continue to make sure it is within normal range (120/80).
- Ask your physician if you are at risk for diabetes and get tested if you are.
- If you are a smoker, this is your month to quit.
- Limit your alcohol consumption and make healthy food choices.
- Consider a new fitness regimen, with your physician’s approval.
- Find ways to lower your stress.
The Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) Heart and Vascular Center delivers state-of-the-art care to women suffering with cardiovascular conditions. We strive to identify risk factors, detect heart disease early and provide specialized treatment. Learn more about our cardiology team. To make an appointment with one of our cardiologists, call 847-618-2500.