Women’s Heart Health
Cardiovascular or heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, representing one in every three female deaths each year. It is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Since 1984, the number of heart disease deaths for women has exceeded those for men.
Despite the fact that more than one in three adult women has some form of cardiovascular disease, only one in five American women believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat.
It is critical for women to learn the symptoms of heart attack and to seek emergency care immediately. Many women who have a heart attack do not even know it because their symptoms are often more subtle.
Gender differences make it challenging to diagnose and treat the disease in women. Women may experience the classic symptoms of sharp chest pain and shortness of breath, but very often they have other such outward signs, such as:
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- Generalized pressure in the chest
- Discomfort in the back, shoulders, arms, stomach, jaw, neck or throat
- Nausea and vomiting
- Unexplained fatigue
In addition to symptoms, it’s also important for women to understand their cardiovascular risk factors and control them with lifestyle modifications such as eating right, controlling weight, getting exercise and quitting smoking.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes also increase a women’s risk of heart disease and heart attack as do a family history of premature cardiac disease, coronary artery disease or stroke. If you have more than one factor, your risk increases substantially.
Even though men and women share many of the same risk factors, women’s hearts are smaller and their blood vessels are narrower, therefore the impacts of these risk factors differ greatly. For example, diabetes increases a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease four-fold, while only doubling a man’s risk. Also, women who are postmenopausal or have had their ovaries removed are at greater risk as well.
Mercy Health System heart specialists use the latest diagnostic and treatment techniques to provide the most effective combination of medication, therapy and surgery for each patient. They also will recommend a customized post-treatment modification plan for lifestyle, diet and exercise, while taking into account women’s unique physiology and life stages.