If you ask a group of women what is the most serious threat to their health, most will respond “breast cancer.” The fact of the matter is that heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more lives than all the cancers combined.
“We must devote the same level of energy and effort to heart disease awareness as we have to breast cancer awareness,” says Kathy Magliato, M.D. Saint John’s Director of Women’s Cardiac Surgical Services. The statistics are alarming. Each year 2.5 million women are hospitalized with cardiovascular disease. “Last year, 500,000 women died from heart disease compared to 446,000 men,” notes Magliato. ”This equates to the death of one woman every 30 seconds from cardiovascular disease or nearly 44 percent of all women.”
“While men’s symptoms typically involve crushing chest pain, women’s symptoms can be more subtle, such as jaw pain, fatigue, nausea or indigestion,” explains Magliato. “Women are so busy with their careers and with taking care of those around them that they forget to take care of themselves. They often often ignore such symptoms when they may actually be having a heart attack.”
“To minimize your risk of heart disease, keep your weight, cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure down by eating a diet low in fat, exercising regularly and managing stress,” advises Magliato. “If you have a family history of heart disease and you’re overweight, sedentary and stressed, you need to see a doctor for blood work and a cardiac exam right away. In fact, a cardiac exam should be part of a women’s preventative health routine, just like an annual pap smear and mammography.”