Heart disease is a friend to no one. It does not discriminate between gender, race or even age and continues to claim the lives of more American women than cancer or any other illness.
Coronary artery disease (CAD), high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart failure and heart attacks all fall under the umbrella of heart disease. The first step in preventing any of these diseases is to know the risk factors. Risk factors for the development of heart disease in women include diabetes and metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and physical inactivity, family history age, and being postmenopausal.
The more risk factors a person has, the greater the risk for developing heart disease. Thankfully, the majority of these risk factors can be managed and reduced through lifestyle modifications. Age and family history, however, are a risk factor that no one can control.
Young women most likely relate heart disease to their grandparents or older loved ones. However, even energetic and athletic women in their 20’s are at risk. Women of all ages need to know how they could be affected and what they can do to prevent heart disease from endangering their lives. This encouraged the American Heart and American Stroke Association to provide the following guidelines for women based on age:
Women in their 20s
• Know the numbers that impact your heart health
• Check your family history
• Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
• Drink in moderation
Women in their 30s
• Tame your stress
• Make your health a priority
• Choose birth control carefully, particularly if you smoke
Women in their 40s
• Strive for more balance and less stress
• Make your wellbeing a priority
• Get regular checkups
Women in their 50s
• Monitor changes in your body and keep an open dialogue with your doctor
• Know your numbers
• Watch what you eat
• Get physical
Women in their 60s and beyond
• Know your risk
• Keep moving
In addition to managing risk factors, women need to know and understand symptoms typically associated with heart disease in men vary from those which affect women. For example, severe, crushing chest pain is most often associated with a heart attack in men, but women tend to present with vague complaints such as unexplained fatigue, shortness of breath, indigestion or fullness in the abdomen, or a burning sensation to the back, jaw, shoulders or arms. Many times they do not experience any pain or discomfort in their chest. Unfortunately, these symptoms are easily attributed to something other than the heart, such as gastrointestinal disturbances or simply being “out of shape.”
If you have any questions or concerns about your risk for developing heart disease, please consult your primary care provider or cardiologist. They will be able to determine your risk factors and make recommendations based on what is best for you. If you experience any of the above symptoms of a heart attack, please seek emergency medical treatment.
February celebrates American Heart Month. For more information about keeping your heart healthy, visit the online health library at www.shannonhealth.com.
By: Dr. Samia Benslimane, Shannon Clinic cardiologistTweet