Heart disease in women
Lawrence Kline, MD, is a board-certified cardiologist on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: My friend told me that heart disease is now the No. 1 killer of women. Is that true and how do I know if I am at risk?
Answer: According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease claims more women’s lives than the next six causes of death combined—about 500,000 women’s lives a year—so your friend is correct.
One of every two women will die of heart disease, which is why a woman should be proactive and talk with her physician about her risk for heart attacks and strokes. Symptoms of heart disease in women are much different—and much more vague – than those typically experienced by men.
For instance, a published survey of 500 women who have had heart attacks reported that only about 30 percent of the women had chest pains beginning the month before their heart attack and only 40 percent of the women had chest pain during the actual heart attack. Symptoms for women can be more intangible, such as being short of breath during exertion, becoming easily fatigued, having heart palpitations or back pain.
Of course, those symptoms could also describe the flu, which is why it is important that women learn what their risk is for cardiovascular disease. Because cardiovascular disease deals with the heart and blood vessels, there are many risk factors. Some are controllable, such as weight, lifestyle, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Others are uncontrollable, such as age and heredity. Women should talk with their primary care physician or a cardiologist to help determine if they are at risk and discuss what changes, if any, need to be made.
The statistics and probable life changes can be scary, its true, but cardiovascular disease—and the potential heart attacks or strokes that comes with it—can be prevented by lowering your risk Talk with your physician or visit American Heart Association to examine your risk and to start taking control of your future.