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Wellness Wednesday: Women in Heart Disease

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Heart disease is the leading killer of women in America. In the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. Each year more women die of heart disease than men, yet heart disease and related risk factors are often missed in women. Symptoms of coronary artery disease and heart attack, for example, are often different in women than their male counterparts. Women are also less likely to receive optimal treatment for certain heart conditions. Unfortunately, many women notice warning signs but ignore them. Participants in an American Heart Association study said they hesitated to call for help because they were uncertain, thought they could treat themselves or were simply too busy with family demands.

• 42% of women who have heart attacks die within 1 year, compared to 24% of men.

• Under age 50, women’s heart attacks are twice as likely as men’s to be fatal.

• 267,000 women die each year from heart attacks, which kill six times as many women as breast cancer.

Another 31, 837 women die each year of congestive heart failure, representing 62.6% of all heart failure


• Sixty-four percent of women (2/3) who die suddenly because of coronary heart disease had no previous


Many women who serve as primary caretakers insist that a child, partner, or parent get help, but fail to attend to or adequately care for their own needs. In other cases, women did call for help but didn’t get it in time because the healthcare provider did not “read the trouble signs” or recognize the urgency of the situation.

Warning Signs Not Unique to Women

  • Chest pain or discomfort: Many heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or stabbing pain. Heart attacks are not always preceded by chest pain.

  • Pain radiating to the neck, shoulder, back, arm or jaw.

  • Pounding heart, change in rhythm.

  • Difficulty breathing.

  • Heartburn, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain.

  • Cold sweats or clammy skin.

  • Dizziness.

Warning Signs Particularly Common in Women

  • Sudden onset of weakness, shortness of breath, nausea/ vomiting, indigestion, fatigue, body aches, or overall feeling of illness (without chest pain)

  • Unusual feeling or mild discomfort in the back, chest, arm, neck, or jaw (without chest pain)

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Anxiety

What can women do to reduce their risk of heart disease?

Women can make several lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease, including:

  • Quit or don't start smoking.

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Avoid saturated or trans fat, added sugars, and high amounts of salt.

  • Treat diabetes, HTN, high cholesterol, sleep apnea

  • Women older than 65 yo or high risk women : take ASA 81mg qd under the direction of a care giver

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