Wellness Wednesday: The Facts About Women and Heart Disease

Do you know what causes heart disease in women? What the survival rate is? Or whether women of all ethnicities share the same risk?

The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!

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But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. There are a several myths and misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of 1 in 3. That’s roughly one death each minute.

Myth: Heart disease is for old people

Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages.  For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit

Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Myth: I don’t have any symptoms

Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it

Fact: Although women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Simply create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.

Because of healthy choices and knowing the signs, more than 670,000 of women have been saved from heart disease, and 300 fewer are dying per day. What’s stopping you from taking action?

Source: American Heart Association


Women and Heart Disease Statistics

General Statistics

  • GRFW_CMYK_2CSHeart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
  • Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
  • An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
  • The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
  • While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
  • Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.

Hispanic women

  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
  • Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.
  • Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.
  • Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to heart health.

African American women

  • Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for African American women.
  • Of African American women ages 20 and older, 46.9 percent have cardiovascular disease.
  • Only 1 in 5 African American women thinks she is personally at risk.
  • Nearly 50 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Only 43 percent of African American women know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.

These statistics represent only a fraction of the 2012 report featured in Circulation. To view the full findings, download a copy of the Heart Disease and Stroke 2012 Statistical Update.

Source: American Heart Association

 

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