Heart disease is the most common cause of death in both men and women in the United States. Each year 600,000 people die of heart disease. When it comes to diseases that impact women, we often worry about breast cancer, when in fact, heart disease kills far more women every year than breast cancer.
That’s not to say women shouldn’t feel concerned about breast cancer, but many women know far too little about the impact of heart disease in women. Increasing awareness of heart disease in women can give you the knowledge you need to make heart-healthy changes and lower your risk.
Heart disease is the number one preventable disease. While a number of factors influence your risk for heart disease, some of them outside of your control, like age and family history, the most significant risk factors are controllable.
You can do something to change major heart disease risk factors such as obesity, uncontrolled high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, smoking, and an inactive lifestyle. This means you have the power to protect your heart and lower your risk of heart disease.
While heart disease impacts both men and women, it doesn’t affect them equally. Did you know that more women than men die of heart disease? Men who develop heart disease have a better chance of survival than women. Plaque buildup, known medically as atherosclerosis, a hallmark of heart disease, causes blood vessels to narrow, increasing the risk of blockage.
Men and women are at risk for plaque buildup. However, blockages that form in men tend to remain localized, making them easier to treat. In women, we see blockages that are spread out, making them more difficult to pinpoint.
Men tend to have classic symptoms when something has gone awry with their cardiovascular system; think crushing chest pain and pressure. This alerts them to a problem that they can have checked swiftly.
Women have vague, less typical symptoms that can present in a much more subtle manner. You may experience these symptoms and brush them off as stress or feeling under the weather. Symptoms in women to watch out for include:
Any delay in treatment can cause significant damage to the heart muscle. Because every minute counts, women should seek immediate medical attention when experiencing one or more of these symptoms.
Carrying excess weight is a major risk factor for heart disease. More women than men are classified as overweight or obese and the gap is widening. The prevalence of obesity is rising among all women, especially women in their 40s and 50s, an age where you’re at an increased risk of heart disease. African American and Hispanic women are at an even greater risk of being overweight.
Even if you have no other risk factors, being overweight by 30 pounds or more increases your risk of heart disease.
If your blood pressure is high, it’s vital to your heart health to get it under control. High blood pressure can silently damage your body for years before you have any noticeable symptoms. In women, hypertension raises the chances of developing heart disease by 50%.
The goal is to get your blood pressure within a healthy range below 120/80. If your blood pressure is outside of a healthy range, work with your doctor to bring it down and protect your heart.
Lead by Dr. Shahrzad Shareghi, our team can not only answer your questions and concerns about heart disease diagnosis and treatment in women, we can help you stay healthy and prevent cardiovascular disease complications.
We invite you to contact one of our two convenient greater Los Angeles locations in Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, California, to schedule an appointment. Our scheduling tool offers a convenient way to send your request online.