One in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease.
While heart disease may often be considered a primary problem for men, it’s actually the leading cause of death for both men and women. Shocking, right? And though heart disease may be more common in those who are older or post-menopause, it is something that women of all ages should take seriously.
In fact, one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease, which can include high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and stroke. But before you fret that you might be dying, there are everyday steps you can take to lower your risk of heart disease. Before we address that, let’s tackle the symptoms that may surround any heart issues.
Some women have no symptoms of heart disease and may not realize there is a problem until signs arise relating to a heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmia or stroke. Others may experience occasional chest pain or discomfort, pain in the neck/jaw/throat or pain in the upper abdomen/back — symptoms which can all occur during rest, sleep, physical activity or be triggered by mental stress. It is important to recognize the signs that could signal immediate danger:
Many women who experience a heart attack may not even succumb to the more commonly associated chest pain — symptoms can be more subtle and surprisingly often occur during rest, sleep or situations surrounding extreme mental stress. If you suspect a cardiovascular problem, seek medical attention immediately.
Certain women may be at higher risk for heart disease than others, based on medical conditions, lifestyle, and family history. According to the CDC, high blood pressure, elevated LDL cholesterol and smoking are key risk factors — and nearly half of all Americans have at least one of the three.
Aging and the onset of menopause can also be a factor, as the risk of damaged arteries and weakened heart muscle can go up as you get older. And when women experience menopause (an inevitable life change), a decline in estrogen may negatively affect the arteries, as well as elevated blood pressure and LDL cholesterol — all of which are common occurrences in the body during menopause.
Other factors may also play a role in the development of heart disease, such as diabetes, mental health issues and depression, physical inactivity, obesity, poor diet, excessive alcohol use, certain chemotherapy drugs or radiation treatment for cancer, and some pregnancy complications.
The good news (we promise, there is some!) is that women can make several lifestyle changes in order to help lower the risk of heart disease. For example:
And as always, speak with your doctor about any heart-related concerns.
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