Fourteen healthy steps to protect a woman’s heart-background
Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women. It takes ten times as many lives in the U.S. than breast cancer. It kills one in three women in the United States. This largely preventable disease accounts for more deaths than all accidents, Alzheimer’s, cancers, and chronic respiratory diseases combined!
The term, cardiovascular disease, is in actuality many diseases and it affects men and women in different ways and to different extents. The most recognizable type is coronary artery disease, including heart attacks, which account for approximately half of all cardiovascular deaths, heart failure and strokes. Even though there are fewer American women who have a heart attack compared to men, nearly as many of them die from one.
Cardiovascular disease is claiming approximately 7% more women than men due to cases of hypertension developing after age 55, along with the increased the incidence of strokes, particularly fatal ones and heart failure.
By age seventy-five, the risk of women having cardiovascular disease is equal to that of a man’s. Heart disease is not just a man’s disease. Knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can be potentially lifesaving if immediate action follows. However, the symptoms of a woman are often different from that of a man.
The most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women is chest pain or pressure. However, most middle-aged women, approximately ¼ to ½ of this population, do not display this classic symptom. Those who have survived a heart attack report that their first symptom was unusual fatigue, a drastic shortness of breath, their heartbeat was pounding, nausea and or pain felt in their back, ear, jaw and neck and or shoulder.
Women who reported having a heart attack felt the feeling of intense anxiety. Even though it may be a panic attack, a woman feeling this should seek immediate medical attention just in case she is suffering from a heart attack.
Since a woman’s symptoms differ from a man’s, are less well known and more diverse they may delay seeking medical attention because they fail to recognize them. The statistics are frightening. In fact, one study found that out of four women having symptoms of a heart attack, only one of them called 911 or went to the hospital. Even after going to the hospital the emergency room doctor may not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack in a woman. All of us are aware that prompt is critical in a heart attack.
There are additional problems when diagnosing a woman’s heart attack because women are less likely to display the typical readings of a heart attack on an electrocardiogram (ECG). Because women tend to be older when they have their first heart attack and/or because of a misdiagnosis by the doctor or the hospital doctors, and/or they delay treatment the chances of survival are less than that for a man.
Even those who have a coronary artery bypass tend to be twice more likely to die during or shortly after the surgery than a man. This is partly so because they delay getting medical help but also due to the fact they have smaller arteries and men. This makes the surgery much more difficult. Another potentially fatal flaw in the post-surgery treatment for women is they are less likely than men to be sent to a cardiac rehab program, receive nutritional counseling and directed into an exercise and/or weight loss program. And as if that were not enough, they are also less likely to be given appropriate medication after their heart attack.