Traditionally, heart disease has been considered a “man’s disease” with the focus being on helping men lead heart-healthy lifestyles. Unfortunately, this means that many women don’t realize that they’re equally at risk of heart disease. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is responsible for about 1 in every 5 female deaths, and is the leading cause of death AND DISABILITY for women in the United States. Heart disease symptoms can be very different in women, but most people are only taught the traditional signs of heart disease in men. Here’s what to know about keeping your heart healthy and what to look for in you and your loved ones.
Heart disease risks increase after menopause
Throughout most of your life, your body produces estrogen which is believed to play an important role in managing your body’s levels of “good” cholesterol. This can maintain your cardiovascular health throughout your life, until estrogen levels begin to drop after menopause sets in. However, this isn’t the only contributor. Factors like diabetes, high cholesterol from your diet, obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure can also increase your chances of heart disease, so you should get these factors under control even before menopause sets in.
Women’s heart disease symptoms
Most people think of chest pain or a crushing feeling when they think of heart attack symptoms. This can be more common in men, but women’s heart disease symptoms can be very different. These include:
- Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the chest or back (either sharp or dull)
- Dizziness and fatigue
- Nausea, indigestion, or heartburn
- Pain in one or both arms
- Swelling of the ankles or feet
In some cases, women experience no symptoms before they have an emergency related to their cardiovascular health, so it’s important to see your physician regularly for screening. IN MEN SYMPTOMS ARE USUALLY BROUGHT ON BY THE EXERCISE OR PHYSICAL LABOR. WOMEN MAY ALSO EXPERIENCE SYMPTOMS DURING PERIODS OF REST OR STRESS.
You can lower your heart disease risk
The first step in assessing your risks for heart disease is by knowing your numbers. If you’ve never had your blood pressure screened by your regular physician, you should do so every year at your physical. This can help you assess whether you should take active steps to lower your risks with medications. It can also indicate that you should be tested for diabetes, which can increase your risk. Additionally, you can make certain lifestyle changes like stop smoking, limit alcohol, manage stress, eat healthy, and begin an exercise regimen.
Schedule a Consultation
Managing your risks for heart disease requires the help of a women’s health expert. To meet with our award-winning team of maternal fetal medicine specialists and gynecologists, we invite you to contact our New York City office by calling or filling out our online form.
Carnegie Imaging for Women blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!