There is a common misconception that only men are susceptible to the risk of heart disease, but they are all sadly mistaken. In fact it is also the #1 cause of death in women. In fact, since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
Women and Heart Disease Facts
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease and stroke, is the biggest killer of women worldwide. Heart disease and stroke kills 8.6 million women each year, which is 1/3 of all deaths worldwide.
In the United States, the disease is the number 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease with a death approximately every one minute.
An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease and 90% of all women have at least one or more risk factors for developing it.
Even though there’s been an increase of awareness over the past 10 years or so, only 54% of women, that’s 1 in 5, actually realize that their #1 killer is disease of the heart.
For both white and African American women, it is the top cause of death in America, and for Hispanic women both cancer and heart disease cause nearly the same amount of deaths every year. For Alaskan Native, Pacific Islander, or American Indian women in the U.S., disease of the heart is 2nd to cancer as the leading cause of death.
7.6% of black women, 5.8% of white women and 5.6% of Mexican American women currently suffer from coronary heart disease.
Nearly 64% of women who end up suddenly dying of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms at the time of their death. This proves that you can be at risk for heart disease even if you are not presently displaying any symptoms.
One of the contributing factors in the number of deaths is that the symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
While there are some women who do not display any symptoms whatsoever, there are others who experience angina, which is a dull chest pain and/or discomfort that can be heavy to sharp in nature, pain in their upper back or abdomen or pain in their neck/throat/jaw. These pains can occur while you are resting, when you begin any physical activity or they can also be triggered due to mental stress.
Women in general are more likely to describe their chest pain as sharp and burning, and they are more frequently prone to pain in their jaw, neck, throat, back, or abdomen.
The disease symptoms can sometimes be completely silent and the disease is not diagnosed until a woman begins experiencing signs and/or symptoms of a heart conditions such as heart failure, heart attack, a heart arrhythmia or a stroke. Symptoms Women May Experience
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
Discomfort and/or pain in your chest
Pain in the upper back
Upper body discomfort
Shortness of breath
Symptoms of an arrhythmia can include:
Fluttering feelings in your chest (heart palpitations)
Symptoms of heart failure can include:
Shortness of breath
Swelling of your ankles/feet/legs/abdomen
Symptoms of a stroke can include:
A sudden weakness, or paralysis (unable to move)
Numbness of the face/legs/arms especially on one particular side of your body
Trouble speaking and/or understanding speech
Difficulty seeing out of either one or both eyes
Shortness of breath
Loss of balance or coordination
Loss of consciousness
Sudden, and severe headache
Key Risk Factors For Women
These are all significant risk factors for heart disease in women. Nearly half of all Americans (about 49%) have at least one of the three key risk factors, and 90% of women have at least one risk factor.
High blood pressure
High levels of LDL cholesterol
A number of lifestyle choices and medical conditions can also increase the risk for disease of the heart in women, these include:
Excessive alcohol consumption
Overweight and/or obesity
Regular screenings, blood tests, and healthy lifestyle choices can go a long way to preventing heart disease and its repercussions. Many times women fail to take care of themselves until it’s almost too late. Take the time to take care of your health and ask your doctor about your heart health.