Heart disease is often considered an affliction of men, who often work long hours, neglect diet and exercise and experience significant stress from unaddressed emotional issues. However, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, accounting for one in three of all female deaths. Alerting women to the risks for heart disease can help to prevent these deaths and allow women to live longer and healthier lives.
Why Heart Health Should Be A Concern For Women
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that almost two-thirds of women who die from sudden coronary disease have had no previous symptoms. Women may often feel fine until heart problems strike. In addition, normal estrogen levels, the prime reproductive hormone in women, is believed to have a protective effect on the heart. As estrogen levels lower around menopause, women lose this additional protection. A specialist from the ICE, Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence, says coronary microvascular disease (MVD) can develop as a result of this drop, affecting women almost exclusively. Some groups are at particular risk for heart disease, such as white women and African-American women, who consistently suffer from heart problems at higher rates than Hispanic or Asian women.
Factors That Contribute To Heart Disease
Many of the factors that contribute to heart disease in men also hold true for women, such as:
• Lack of exercise
• Poor diet
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Complications of pregnancy and birth
Heart Disease Can Have Different Symptoms in Women
The classic crushing pain in a man’s chest that is often depicted as a heart attack on TV and in movies may not be the prime symptom of a woman experiencing a heart attack. In women, a heart attack may display as:
• Unusual fatigue
• Neck, jaw, upper back pain or abdominal discomfort
• Shortness of breath
• Unusual nausea or vomiting
• Pain in the right arm
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Unusual sweating
• Tightness in the chest
Protecting Yourself Against Heart Disease
Eating a healthy diet of lean meats, whole grain and plenty of fruits and vegetables can help to maintain weight and reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Getting regular exercise can also help these factors and can also help in managing stress levels. If you smoke, join a smoking cessation program or talk to your doctor about ways to quit. Your doctor may recommend taking a low-dose aspirin daily. If you notice any unusual symptoms of fatigue or discomfort in the chest, back or abdomen that comes and goes, see your doctor to ensure that your heart is functioning normally.
Heart health is important for both men and women and should begin as soon as you reach adulthood. You can reduce your risk of heart problems with good self-care and regular physical examinations.
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