Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease accounts for 20% of female deaths. Coronary artery disease, commonly known as heart disease or atherosclerosis, is the most common type of heart disease. More than 6% of women over the age of 19 are afflicted by it, which can lead to a heart attack or heart failure.
Heart conditions, for which women are at higher risk than men, include cardiac syndrome X, angina (chest pain) and broken heart syndrome (stress-induced cardiomyopathy). Women can also be affected by several other heart conditions. These include heart failure, heart valve disease and arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), including atrial fibrillation (Afib).
ProMedica warns of the risk factors for heart failure are:
• A previous heart attack
• Family history of heart attack
• A man over 45 or woman over 55
• High blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol
• Being overweight
• Limited or no exercise
Several risk factors for heart disease cannot be modified. Family history, race, gender, menopause and age all play a role in heart disease. Still, some risk factors can be managed and changed.
According to Cleveland Clinic, to reduce your risk for disease:
• Quit smoking
• Lower your total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides
• Increase your HDL (good) cholesterol
• Reduce your blood pressure if it is high
• Keep diabetes under control
• Maintain a healthy body weight
– Eat heart-healthy foods
– Exercise regularly
– Reduce your stress
One drink a day, including beer wine or spirits, can provide some benefit by increasing HDL cholesterol. But also, be aware that medical experts caution against more than one drink per day. Studies have found high alcohol consumption can damage the heart. Although some studies suggest alcohol may be beneficial in moderation, other studies have reached the opposite conclusion. The recommendation is, if you don’t already drink alcohol, not to begin.
Heart attack signs
While women can experience all the same symptoms as men, often, however, women experience heart attacks differently. Most notably, women don’t always experience crushing chest pain. Instead, they may feel tightness or pressure in their chest. As a result, symptoms can go unnoticed or are easily brushed off. If the pain or discomfort goes away and then comes back or lasts for more than a few minutes, that could be a symptom and a medical opinion should be solicited
According to Mercy Health, other symptoms include:
• Chest pain
• Fatigue or weakness
• Nausea or lack of appetite
• Difficulty concentrating
• Irregular heartbeat
• Shortness of breath caused by exertion or that can cause you to wake up
• Abdomen swelling
• Coughing up blood or foamy mucus
• Sudden weight gain from fluid retention
What to do if you think you may be having a heart attack
Call 911 immediately and have them dispatch emergency medical services (EMS). This is usually faster than having someone drive you to the hospital.
Also, if you’re in a public place, such as at work or in a store, a defibrillator may be available. Defibrillators come with easy instructions and could save your life.
Finally, take an aspirin. It is recommended to take a standard dose of 325 mg that isn’t coated, chew it, and then swallow it with a glass of water to quickly get it into your system. This can slow blood clotting and limit damage to your heart.