Dispelling the Myths About Women and Heart Disease
Heart disease is a major health threat to women in the United States. In fact, according to the American Heart Association heart disease kills more women in the United States each year than any other disease. Unfortunately, many women are unaware of their risk factors and the symptoms that are associated with heart disease.
Listed below are some common myths regarding women and heart disease.
Myth: Heart disease is a man's disease.
Heart disease is a serious health concern for both men and women. The primary difference between heart disease in men and women is that it often shows up in women nearly a decade later than in men.
Myth: The symptoms of heart disease are the same for women and men.
Heart disease displays itself differently in women and men. The signs in women tend to be subtler than for men. The primary warning sign women should be on the lookout for is angina, which is chest pain that causes a tight feeling in the chest and may spread into the left arm or jaw. Angina is oftentimes mistaken for indigestion in women and is therefore frequently missed. Other warning signs may include:
- Atypical chest pain, stomach or abdominal pain
- Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness
- Difficulty breathing, either while exercising or at rest
- Feeling fatigued for an extended period of time
- Swelling of the ankles or legs
- Fluttering, rapid heartbeats
- Nausea and dizziness that cannot be explained by other causes
Myth: Heart disease is an unavoidable result of getting older.
While it is true that growing older does put women at a higher risk for heart disease, it is by no means unavoidable. There are many things you can do to help reduce your risk of heart disease, even if you have a family history of the disease. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol can all go a long way towards reducing your heart disease risk.
Myth: Women should be more concerned about other diseases, such as breast cancer, rather than heart disease.
While it is important for women to be concerned about diseases such as breast cancer, they should not overlook heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one cause of death among women in the United States, claiming nearly 500,000 women annually.
Myth: If there's no history of heart disease in your family, you don't have to worry about getting it.
Family history is only one of many risk factors for heart disease in women. You may also be at risk for developing heart disease if you:
- Are over age 55
- Have high blood pressure (140/90 or higher)
- Are overweight
- Smoke cigarettes
- Are physically inactive
- Have diabetes
- Are under a lot of stress
The numerous myths and misconceptions regarding women and heart disease have left many women in the United States misinformed about the true risk this disease poses to their health. Be sure to discuss your risk factors with your family physician and work to make changes to your lifestyle that will help reduce your chances of developing this serious disease.
Source: American Heart Association