The Top Facts Women Need to Know about Heart Attacks
Heart Disease Kills More Women Every Year than Diseases Perceived as More Threatening, such as Breast and Lung Cancers.
When it comes to the fear factor, breast cancer has a clear edge. Most women are terrified of the diseaseand rightly so, since it kills 41,000 U.S. women every year. Lung canceranother feared diseaseclaims more than 70,000 women every year. Yet heart disease kills 292,000 women a year, which makes the likelihood of dying from heart disease far greater than dying from breast and lung cancer combined.
And, only 56 percent of women know that heart disease claims so many lives.
This is a shame, because heart disease is largely preventable, says Weill Cornell cardiologist Joy Gelbman, MD. At birth, a woman has a 47 percent chance of eventually dying of cardiovascular disease. If more women knew this, perhaps they would be willing to take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Top five facts
Women do not always have the typical symptoms of a heart attack.
Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, or a feeling of fullness in the center of the chest that may last a few minutes, or disappear and return.
Women often delay getting medical attention for their symptoms.
Don't drive to the hospital, either. Call 911. The faster you are treated, the better your chances of a good outcome, and the paramedics can start potentially lifesaving treatment on your way to the hospital.
Women are more likely than men to die from a heart attack.
In reality, a woman's heart attack is more likely to be fatal. That's because women tend to have heart attacks at least 10 years later than men, when they are older and more likely to have other medical problems.
Poor lifestyle choices are responsible for the lion's share of heart attacks.
According to the American Heart Association, a woman's risk of heart disease is generally due to poor lifestyle choices, such as inactivity, and cigarette smoking, that can cause blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels to rise. The damage is reinforced by diets that are lacking in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seafood, and are too high in sodium, sugar, and saturated and trans fats.
We get busy working and taking care of our families, and, in the process, we often neglect ourselves. However, this should not be used as an excuse, says Dr. Gelbman.
Unhealthy habits may be difficult or unpleasant to change, but we owe it to ourselves and those we love to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Problems in pregnancy raise the risk of a future heart attack.
It's easy to forget about this connection in the excitement of having a new baby, but the risk doesn't go away. "Be sure to make your internist, family doctor, or cardiologist aware of any history you have of problems during pregnancy, advises Dr. Gelbman.
A spark of good news
Women are generally in control of their family's health, as well as their own, so any changes they make to reduce their risk of heart disease lowers their family's risk, as well, says Dr. Gelbman.