The last decade has brought the issue of women and heart disease to the forefront of health awareness. Thanks to a multitude of public service announcements, media attention and the “Go Red for Women” movement, there is a general awareness that “this can happen to you.” Diet and physical activity are the front lines of defense.
One fact that sometimes receives less attention is that women present differently with heart attacks than what is considered the typical “elephant standing on my chest” description; additionally, women may experience several warning signs of heart disease that may be overlooked, including:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Symptoms of heartburn
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
Sometimes these are the only symptoms. Yes, some women will experience a heart attack without chest pain. Others experience chest pressure or tightness OR a sharp pain.
According to the American Heart Association
- Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.
- An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
- 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
- Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
- 80% of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education
- Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
- The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women vs. men, and are often misunderstood – even by some physicians.
One fact from the American Heart Association is that fewer women than men survive their first heart attack. In many instances, that’s because these symptoms have been chalked up to stress, digestive issues or even menopause and not investigated as anything serious. By the time a woman has a full-fledged heart attack, she has heart damage from months of untreated symptoms.
So, what to do? If you have a family history of heart disease, check in with your primary physician and chat with them about any additional risks you may have. Another proactive measure is to sign up for our $49 heart scan… while it can’t completely diagnose cardiovascular disease, it’s a good place to start. And, we even have “gift certificates” for a special woman in your life.