February is National Heart Health Month, and on this last day of February 2014, I would like to address a few common misconceptions about heart disease and women. As with any health issue, knowledge is power. And when your heart is on the line, you need all the power you can get.
What do you know about women and heart disease? “It’s a man’s disease.” “But I’m too young.” “Breast cancer is the real threat.” If you’ve heard or said any of this before, you’re not alone. The real fact is, relying on these false assumptions can cost you your life.
It’s true: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in women. Yet, only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
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. So, let me arm you with the facts and dispel some myths with regards to women and heart disease.
Myth #1: Heart disease is for men
Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three. That’s roughly one death each minute.
Myth#2: Heart disease is for old people.
Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.
Myth#3: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit.
Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.
Myth#4: I don’t have any symptoms.
Fact: Over 60% of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.
Myth#5: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it.
Fact: Although women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Simply create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.
What Can You Do?
Heart disease is largely preventable. Leading a healthy lifestyle can help prevent heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends following these guidelines to help you to lower your risk of heart disease:
Maintain a healthy diet
Be physically active everyday
Manage your blood pressure
Manage your cholesterol levels
Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight
Reduce your stress
Take any medicines as prescribed
Limit alcohol consumption
When it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease, there is no time like the present. Take action today and share this information with the women you love.
The wrong information can be just as dangerous as no information. Learn more at: https://www.goredforwomen.org/