For years, heart disease was considered predominantly a male problem. Today, though, we know it’s the leading cause of death in the United States, regardless of gender.
As a result, many heart disease awareness campaigns now are focusing on females as their level of risk still is underappreciated to some extent. Statistics from the American Heart Association offer perspective on how the disease doesn’t discriminate based on gender.
- It is estimated that 44 million women in U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
- Fewer women survive their first heart attack than do men.
- Hispanic women typically develop heart disease earlier than Caucasian women.
- Cardiovascular diseases kill more than 48,000 African American women annually.
- Nearly half (48.3%) of African-American women age 20 and older have cardiovascular disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides an interactive map feature in which data can be analyzed regarding heart disease, heart failure and other cardiovascular conditions.
According to the CDC, nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly of heart disease showed no previous symptoms. That said, it’s good to be aware of heart disease symptoms so that you can identify the problem early and seek treatment as soon as possible.
The CDC outlines symptoms for the following conditions as such:
- Heart Attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.
- Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)
- Heart Failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen
Heart disease is a persistent threat to your health and is something you never stop fighting. Regardless of age, there are things you can do to protect yourself from the threat of heart disease. These include:
- A healthy diet: Foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium are preferred. Oily fish, high fiber grains and, of course, fruits and vegetables should make your shopping list while red meat, poultry with skin, sugar sweetened beverages and dairy products rarely feature in a healthy diet plan.
- Exercise: This comes as no surprise, but exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. However, it may not take as much as you think to find the health benefits you are looking for. For the average adult, you should partake in a minimum of two and a half hours of reasonably intense aerobic exercise a week, such as a brisk walk, or 75 minutes of jogging or running. Additionally, you should mix in two or more days that include 60-minute muscle strengthening sessions.
According to a new study from Heart & Stroke titled “Ms. Understood,” women are five times more likely to die from heart disease than breast cancer and have a higher percentage of deaths in hospital from heart attack than men do. The report indicates that heart attacks can be more dangerous for women due to effects from pregnancy, menopause and hormonal change, and that early signs of heart attack are not recognized in about 78% of women.
Perhaps part of the issue is the way research on heart disease is conducted. According to the report, two-thirds of heart disease research is focused on males. This lack of research may be contributing to women being underdiagnosed and undertreated for heart disease at a time when the rates of heart disease are going up in women under the age of 60.
“These women, in particular, if they have a heart attack, are more likely than men to have a second heart attack or die with in 12 months,” Dr. Paula Harvey, cardiology division head at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, told CBC News.