Heart Health Facts All Women Should Know
- Posted on: Feb 9 2023
February is American Heart Health Month, and a great time to brush up on women’s heart health facts to keep you in great shape. Below, we walk you through all the facts a woman should know about the risks and prevention of heart disease. Many fatal heart attacks and strokes are preventable.
What is Heart Health Month?
February was established as American Heart Month in 1964 with the primary purpose of spreading awareness and educating the public about the risks and preventative measures associated with heart disease.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD), is a general term used to describe a range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, which are mostly caused by the buildup of a waxy substance called plaque in the arteries. Blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress management are all things you should be monitoring to live a healthy life and lowering your chances of being affected by the disease.
Heart disease is often thought of as affecting men, but in reality, women are just as affected by the disease, and knowing the signs and symptoms is more important than ever.
Warning signs of a stroke include:
- Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg (especially on one side of the body)
- Sudden slurred speech or trouble speaking and confusion
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance and coordination
- Severe and abrupt headache
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Do not waste any time and seek emergency treatment if you experience symptoms of a stroke.
Warning signs of a heart attack include:
- Shortness of breath with or without chest pains
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness
- Pain in one or both arms, neck, jaw, stomach, or back
- Uncomfortable pressure in the chest lasting for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
Like men, the most common heart attack symptom among women is chest pain. However, women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, and pain in the upper abdomen. Don’t hesitate to call your doctor if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
Myths About Heart Disease in Women
The following are some of the most common myths circulating the media and internet about heart disease in women:
- Only older women are at risk – While the risk does increase with age, high blood pressure and heart disease can affect women of all ages. The combination of birth control pills and smoking can boost your chances by about 20-percent (yet another reason to quit smoking). Certain heart conditions can also lead to a higher risk.
- I feel fine, so I don’t have high blood pressure – High blood pressure is often known as the “silent killer” because it usually doesn’t present any symptoms. Nearly 1 in 4 adults between the ages 20 to 44 has high blood pressure. Regularly checking your blood pressure is the best way to detect any issues and keep your heart in good shape.
- Breast cancer is the main concern for women – Heart disease is actually the leading cause of death for women in the United States. When it comes to annual deaths, one in 31 American women die of breast cancer each year, while one out of three women die of heart disease. In fact, it comes out to be almost one death each minute, making it more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
- I’m fit and healthy, so heart disease isn’t going to affect me – It’s possible to be thin and have high cholesterol. Habits like a poor diet and smoking can counterbalance any healthy habits like routine exercise. Taking care of yourself with a balanced diet and exercise is important.
What are the Risks of Heart Disease in Women?
You may be at a higher risk of developing heart disease if you have a family history of the condition. Pregnancy, birth control, and hormonal changes in the years surrounding menopause can also increase a woman’s risk.
Other medical conditions that can put a woman at higher risk include:
- Obesity, Unhealthy Diet
- Lack of exercise
- Drinking too much alcohol
- High cholesterol
At an annual, wellness exam, you can expect your doctor or provider to perform and order screening that can help monitor heart health.
How to Improve Your Heart Health
While some women may be at higher risk of heart disease than others, it doesn’t mean they can’t do anything to reduce their chances of getting the disease.
The following are all great ways women can improve heart health:
- Maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise
- Finding natural ways to reduce stress, examples include yoga and meditation
- Checking blood pressure regularly
- Getting regular check-ups with your doctor
- Spread awareness by discussing heart health with friends and family
Heart Health and Pregnancy
Heart disease is the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S., accounting for more than 1 in 4 of the roughly 700 pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. each year.
Risk factors include:
- Race – Black, Hispanic, and Native American women are more likely to die from heart-related pregnancy complications, which may be the result of the differences in insurance coverage and access to care.
- Obesity – While it’s important to gain a healthy amount of weight during pregnancy, gaining too much weight could lead to preeclampsia, a high blood pressure disorder.
- Age – Women who are 35 or older are at higher risk.
- High blood pressure – If you plan on getting pregnant, work with your doctor to monitor and lower your blood pressure.
The good news is about a quarter of maternal deaths can be avoided through early detection of cardiovascular disease. Women should work with their OB-GYN doctor before, during, and after pregnancy to lower their risk and improve their heart health. Regular checkups, a balanced and healthy diet, stress management, and light exercise are all things a woman should discuss with her doctor.
Heart Health and Menopause
The hormonal changes surrounding menopause can increase a woman’s chances of developing heart disease. The age, timing, and treatment of menopausal symptoms can affect your risk for heart disease.
It’s important to pay attention to the changes in your body. Talking to your OB-GYN doctor before, during, and after menopause can help you understand your risk factors.
At Prime Medical, with two locations in San Pedro, we specialize in Women’s Health and take the time to listen to your specific questions and needs. If you have questions about your health, feel free to speak with our doctors, San Pedro’s simplest healthcare provider with your most frequently needed services on-site. Call (310) 548-0201.