The Month of Love is a Good Time to Think about Heart Disease in Women
By GUEST CONTRIBUTOR DR. PAMELA IVEY, HEALTHCARE PARTNERS CARDIOLOGY. CREATED Feb 9, 2015
Although it is traditionally thought of more as an issue among men, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. In fact, according to the American Heart Association (AHA), more women die of the disease than men, with one in three women dying of heart disease each year.
Many women may have suffered a heart attack without even knowing. This is because women donít always experience obvious heart attack symptoms such as crushing chest pain that radiates down one arm. Women often feel less severe symptoms, including gradual pain or stomach aches that can be mistaken for heart burn or the flu. Those who suffer heart attacks also report feelings of fatigue when carrying out everyday activities like climbing the stairs or walking to the bathroom.
Because heart attacks can often be subtle for women, it is extremely important for patients to know the specific symptoms they may experience. Although some do feel chest pain, women are more likely to have symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
-- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
-- Shortness of breath
-- Right arm pain
-- Nausea or vomiting
-- Lightheadedness or dizziness
-- Unusual fatigue
It is especially important for women to pay close attention to their health and involve their physician when they experience any of these symptoms.
In addition to high mortality rates, a study from the AHA found women who suffer a heart attack before the age of 56 fare worse than their male counterparts. The study revealed that many women suffer worse physical and mental functioning, lower quality of life, more chest pain and greater physical limitations a year after they suffered an attack.
Fortunately there are ways that women can decrease their risk of heart disease. Smoking dramatically increases the risk of heart disease, so it is important for both men and women to quit or not start the habit.
Other lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity also play key roles in preventing heart disease. It is essential for women to take the time to develop exercise plans with their doctors and engage in some form of physical activity five days a week. Regular exercise can significantly improve a personís quality of life, leading to a noticeable feeling of revitalization while strengthening physical and mental health.
Maintaining a healthy weight and a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt can also dramatically reduce a womanís risk.
As a cardiologist with HealthCare Partners Cardiology, I advise all women to monitor their health. Ask your physician about routine cholesterol and blood pressure tests. These can help identify risk factors by offering clues about your heart health. Talk to your physician if you have any developing symptoms and consider visiting a HealthCare Partners cardiologist.
For more information about HealthCare Partners, visit www.hcpnv.com.