Heart disease is a woman’s disease. Surprised? Most women are. Heart disease is still widely considered a man’s problem. But, statistics show that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, just as it is for men. One out of 10 American women age 45 to 64 has some form of heart disease. After age 65, one in four women has heart disease.
Risk Factors: The Same
The major risk factors for heart disease are very much the same for women and men. Cigarette smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, being overweight and physical inactivity all pave the way. Even just one risk factor will increase your chances of having heart-related problems.
The sexes do not share the symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks. Research by the National Institutes of Health found that women start experiencing warning signs of an impending heart attack a month or more before the event.
Both men and women may have the classic symptom of pain that spreads to the shoulder, neck or jaw area, but women may have more common sensations that show up all at once or suddenly increase in severity. The most common symptom that something was amiss, experienced by nearly three-fourths of the female heart-attack survivors in the study, was unusual fatigue. About half started having unexplained sleep disturbances and shortness of breath. Only a third reported chest discomfort, and they described it as pressure, aching or tightness, not as pain.
It's important for women to know that these seemingly vague and undramatic symptoms may be associated with heart disease and that they need to seek medical care.