Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that it’s responsible for about 1 in 4 female deaths.
One of the reasons the death rate is thought to be so high is that many women just don’t recognize that they are having a heart attack. In fact, the symptoms in women are very different from those that men experience, and female heart attack symptoms are often mistaken for other diseases or illnesses. The CDC states that 71% of women report flu-like symptoms for two weeks to a month prior to having more acute chest discomfort or severe shortness of breath.
According to WebMD, heart attacks are increasing for middle-aged women due to lack of awareness and action. Over the past few years, heart attacks for men are trending downward, while for women in the age 35-54 range it is increasing. This is thought to be because women than men smoke, and also the increase in diabetes due to obesity.
The CDC reports around 5% of U.S. women fall into the obesity range.
WebMD suggests things like family history of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, tobacco use, excess weight, poor diet, and physical inactivity are all contributors. One physician even suggest that women who reach 40 get an electrocardiogram (ECG).
“If it’s normal, you don’t have to have one every year. But that gives doctors a baseline to compare to in the future — much like your first mammogram,” Martha L. Daviglus, MD, PhD, professor of preventive medicine and medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and spokeswoman for the American Heart Association, told WebMD.
Women can experience one or more of these during heart attacks:
Shortness of breath
Dizziness or light-headedness
Pressure, squeezing or pain in the chest–not just on the left side!
Pain in the back, arm, jaw or upper abdomen
If you’re experiencing any of these, it’s best to head to the ER or call 911. (Better safe than sorry!)
This post is informational only and should not replace any advice from a medical professional.
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