There’s a lot of talk about inequality between men and women, but one area in particular where women are leading in record numbers: heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer.
Many women are either unaware of the symptoms to pay attention to or may attribute their symptoms as due to other causes. For instance, that pain in your jaw, neck or back? Don’t assume it‘s just from the gym or a little extra stress. They could be symptoms of a heart attack .
The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!
But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. There are a several misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement advocates for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health for this very reason.
What causes heart disease?
Heart disease affects the blood vessels and cardiovascular system. Numerous problems can result from this, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.
But it doesn’t end there. Heart disease can take many other forms as well:
• Heart failure or congestive heart failure, which means that the heart is still working, but it isn’t pumping blood as well as it should, or getting enough oxygen.
• Arrhythmia or an abnormal rhythm of the heart, which means the heart is either beating too fast, too slow or irregularly. This can affect how well the heart is functioning and whether or not the heart is able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
• Heart valve problems can lead to the heart not opening enough to allow proper blood flow. Sometimes the heart valves don’t close and blood leaks through, or the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse into the upper chamber, causing blood to flow backward through them.
How can I prevent it?
Many things can put you at risk for these problems – one’s you can control, and others that you can’t. But the key takeaway is that with the right information, education and care, heart disease in women can be treated, prevented and even ended.
Studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Here are a few lifestyle changes you should make:
• Don’t smoke
• Manage your blood sugar
• Get your blood pressure under control
• Lower your cholesterol
• Know your family history
• Stay active
• Lose weight
• Eat healthy
To learn more about heart attack symptoms, causes and prevention visit Go Red for Women.