February is American Heart Month, and the first Friday in February is National Wear Red Day® to increase awareness of heart disease in women. While deaths from heart disease have declined in recent years, it is the leading cause of death in men and women in the United States.
The risk factors for heart disease between men and women are the same: smoking, unhealthy cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, sedentary lifestyle, being obese or overweight, and diabetes. What is different between men and women when it comes to heart disease? Women are at higher risk when they are 55 years, while men are at risk at 45 years.
According to the American Heart Association:
- Since 1984 heart disease has claimed the lives of more women than men.
- In 2006, women represented over 50% of deaths from heart disease.
- The surprise to most people: heart disease of all types kills more women each year then all forms of cancer combined! In 2006, 432,709 women died of heart disease, while lung cancer killed 69,385 women and breast cancer killed 40,821 women creating a combined 110,206 from the top two cancers, or about 25% of the deaths from heart disease.
Go Red for Women® is more than just wearing a red shirt or red dress this Friday, February 4, but encouraging women to take steps to learn their risk for heart disease, take steps to cut their risk, and learning the symptoms of heart disease.
RISKS FOR WOMEN:
As mentioned, risk factors are the same for both women and men. Women should know their numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose and find out the results.
Not smoke, which increases risk for heart disease, breast cancer and lung cancer.
Exercise regularly, at least 30 minutes, five days a week and eat a heart healthy diet. If necessary, lose weight. Obesity increase risk of heart disease, as well as breast cancer. Even if you are not overweight or obese, women and men can still have heart disease.
SYMPTOMS OF HEART DISEASE IN WOMEN:
- Chest pain or discomfort – usually in the form of pressure.
- Pain or discomfort in other areas, such as the arm, neck, back and/or jaw. Women tend to experience pain in the jaw and back more often.
- Shortness of breath – which occurs more often in women.
- Nausea/vomiting, sweating or feeling light-headed – women often feel the nausea/vomiting more.
So, wear red today, but mostly know your risks, work to reduce your risks, and stay informed on the signs and symptoms of heart disease and how it could present in you.
Don’t be afraid to seek treatment, and worry that it isn’t a heart attack. In 2004, at the age of 60, model and actress Lauren Hutton thought she was suffering from a heart attack. She was airlifted to the Heart Hospital of New Mexico from the hospital she went to in Taos, NM. It turns out she was suffering from indigestion, but she used herself as an example of a woman at risk, who took the necessary steps to seek treatment. To her, it didn’t matter that it wasn’t a heart attack (actually it probably did matter), but she sought treatment immediately. Lucky for her, it wasn’t a heart attack, but if it had been, her chances of surviving greatly increased.