January 14, 2019

According to the American Heart Association, an estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease. It is the number one cause of death among women - more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. One in four women will die due to heart disease each year.

Heart%20Chest%20Graphic.jpgHeart attacks, and their aftermath, are often deadlier in women than in men - meaning more women will die within a year of having a heart attack than men. More often, women are older than man when they experience a heart attack and do not respond as well to treatments and medications that are given during or following a heart attack.

Studies have shown that heart disease can occur differently in women than in men. Instead of occurring from obvious blockages in the arteries as it does in most men, women often experience a build-up of plaque in the arteries that is evenly spread out on the artery wall. This type of build-up is often hidden from an angiogram, which measures blood flow in larger arteries.

This condition causes symptoms that are less severe and may occur in other parts of the body than the chest, like the jaw and arms. Often, women do not recognize that they are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, making it less likely they will seek medical help, which can lead to higher rates of complications and death. Subtle symptoms might also lead to misdiagnosis by health care providers.

Signs of heart attack, particularly in women:

  • Chest discomfort, including pain, squeezing, burning, or mild to severe pressure that lasts more than a few minutes
  • Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea or vomiting, or cold sweats
  • Feeling of anxiety, fatigue or weakness on exertion or without explanation

Factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, extra weight and smoking can all contribute to the amount of plaque that builds up in the arteries.

Tips for Heart Healthy Living

  • Commit to eating a heart healthy diet that is low in fat and sodium.
  • Get active through regular physical activity, like walking, biking, gardening or swimming.
  • Watch your weight. Even losing a small amount of weight can make a big difference.
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Reduce stress through meditation, yoga, rhythmic breathing and group support.

For more information on heart conditions and care go to camc.org/Heart.

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