Heart disease is often considered a “man’s disease.” However, there are more and more women being diagnosed with the condition every year. It’s now at the point that just as many women as men die from heart disease on a yearly basis in the United States. It’s become the number one killer of women, but just over half of all women consider that.
It’s not surprising that women are viewed as being immune from heart disease. Estrogen levels help to offer protection against that. Plus, we tend to gain weight around our thighs and hips, rather than the middle which can put extra pressure on our organs, unlike men. However, there are things we do in our life that cause that natural estrogen protection to decrease.
There are certain ethnicities that will see heart disease as a bigger problem. White and African American women see heart disease as the leading cause of death. For Hispanic, Native American, and Asian/Pacific Islander women, cancer remains the highest, but heart disease is quickly catching up.
It’s time to be more proactive about heart disease and take it more seriously. You need the hard truths about heart disease in women.
A Quarter of Female Deaths
Heart disease is attributed to a quarter of all female deaths in the United States alone. In 2013, almost 300,000 women died of the condition. It’s now the leading cause of death in White and African America women. In Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer are now almost joint first for causing the most deaths. In other women, cancer remains the biggest killer, but heart disease is growing.
This should be alarming. After all, this is all cancer lumped together and there are many different types. Heart disease is just one condition. It’s something that has always been linked mostly to men, but more women are dying of this every day.
The problem with heart disease is the lack of knowledge. Two-thirds of the women who do die of heart disease have had no symptoms at all. It’s one of those silent killers that you need to be conscious of. In many cases, there are symptoms that tend to go overlooked.
Women can experience a dull discomfort in the chest (this can also be a sharp or heavy pain) or pain in the throat or neck. Some women will also have pain in the back or upper abdomen. Because the pain isn’t always in the chest around the heart, the symptoms can be brushed off as something else. It’s often only when the symptoms get worse or they develop into a more serious condition that women talk to their doctors!
Heart Attacks and Stroke Are the Next Symptoms!
Heart attacks symptoms are usually described as a pain in the chest and down the left arm. However, that’s a heart attack symptom in a man. The symptoms are often very different in women. In fact, a heart attack can present itself as heartburn or indigestion pain. Some women will have pain in their back, severe fatigue, or even shortness of breath.
It’s easy to see why heart attacks are often overlooked. However, they’re the next symptoms of heart disease. They can also be deadly symptoms and are a sign that the heart has suffered problems for a while.
Heart failure is another serious symptom of the condition. This can present itself as shortness of breath or fatigue. You may also notice that the abdomen, ankles, legs, or feet are swollen due to the poor blood circulation around the body.
If you suffer from the feeling of flutters in the chest, this could be a sign of arrhythmia, also referred to as palpitations. Your heart isn’t beating as it should, increasing the risk of heart attacks and heart failure. There’s also an issue with getting blood around the body.
Some women won’t realize they have heart disease until they suffer a stroke. This can present itself in many ways, but often paralysis on one side, numbness in the arms or face, or you may experience sudden weakness in the body. In some cases, you may be unable to speak, be confused, or have problems with vision in one eye.
Strokes are serious complications and mean the brain isn’t getting the oxygen or blood it needs, usually due to a clot. Noticing the symptoms and getting help immediately is the best way to recover fully. However, there may always be paralysis on one side afterward, along with other symptoms.
Half of American Women Are at Risk
There are three signs that you’re at a high risk of developing heart disease:
- You smoke
- You have high blood pressure
- Your bad cholesterol levels are high
Studies show that almost half of all American are at risk of developing heart disease. They fit into all three categories above. Just changing one element can reduce the risk considerably.
However, there are other risks to consider. Being overweight is growing into one of the biggest risk factors. Those who are overweight usually have a poor diet and will likely have high cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Lack of exercise is also a factor and can often link to obesity and poor diet issues.
Those who have more abdominal fat are more likely to see an increased risk in various health problems (like heart disease) than those who have more thigh or hip fat. The fat around the abdomen is also around the organs, putting excess pressure on the body’s functions. When the fat is around the thighs and hips that excess pressure isn’t there.
If you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, you also increase your risk of heart disease. Your liver must do more, there’s an increase in your blood pressure, and your heart works harder.
Women with diabetes are more likely to develop heart disease than women without. This is a condition that can be developed through weight gain, but there are other factors linked to it. If your diabetes is controlled, you can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.
The best way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease is to get rid of the risk factors. Some of these are going to be easier than others. It will depend on the length of time you’ve allowed bad habits to become part of your life and your willpower. If you’re struggling to reduce your drinking habits or quit smoking, talk to your doctor or find programs to help. They’re worth it for putting your overall health first.
Smoking is certainly something you’re going to want to quit. Smoking gets rid of that estrogen protection against the disease.
Seeing your doctor regularly is also important if you have high blood pressure. Your doctor will put you on medication if you are diagnosed with high blood pressure and need it to keep your weight down. You may also have the DASH diet suggested to you, which can help you also manage your weight and keep your cholesterol levels down.
High blood pressure is something that has absolutely no symptoms at all. Many people have high blood pressure without even realizing it and the only way you’ll find out is by talking to your doctor. It’s important to get a routine physical on a yearly basis to protect your health.
Your Stress Levels May Be the Cause
Have you ever heard of stress being called a silent killer? This is because it affects so much of your body and causes problems that have no symptoms at all. One of the biggest concerns about stress is the increase in your blood pressure. You can find it easier to sleep, manage daily tasks, and enjoy life.
As your blood pressure increases so do your risk of developing heart disease. One of the best things you can do is manage your stress levels.
This can be easier said than done, especially if you have anxiety. However, some of the tips can also help to reduce the risk of heart disease considerably.
For example, increasing the amount of exercise you do is considered one of the best ways to manage your stress levels. Your burn extra energy, release happy hormones and find it easier to sleep afterward. Exercising can also give you time away from situations, so you’re focusing on yourself to help you relax.
Yoga is another excellent way to manage your stress levels. This can help to incorporate meditation and exercise together, improving your flexibility and health, while managing your inner strength and focus. If you don’t want to take up yoga, you can investigate meditation instead.
Even warm, relaxing baths and spending the time to yourself are good ways of managing your stress levels. You can also make it a habit not to worry about events that are out of your control. If you can’t do anything about a situation, brush it aside and focus on something that you can control. When you know you can do something to take control, make those steps and manage the situation as a doer.
Marital stress is one of the biggest concerns for doctors when it comes to women and heart disease. Studies have shown that marital stress is more likely to lead to health problems, especially heart disease. This may be for various reasons but is likely linked to the fact that women take on more of the stress in a relationship.
By making changes to your lifestyle, you can reduce the risk of developing heart disease. You reduce the risk factors, which goes a long way to boosting your natural estrogen protection against the disease.
It’s Not Only the Old at Risk
There’s a misconception that heart disease (like many other diseases and conditions) are age-related. After all, it does seem like older people are diagnosed with the likes of heart disease than younger people. While there are older people diagnosed, that doesn’t mean younger people aren’t at risk.
In fact, around 435,000 women have a heart attack on a yearly basis and 35,000 of those are under the age of 55. Women under 50 are more likely to die from a heart attack than men within that same age group. This should indicate that there is a major risk of developing heart disease at a young age.
The number of young people developing the condition is increasing considerably. It’s not that surprising when you consider lifestyle choices. We have so much more available to us to help us life lazier lifestyles. Think about the cars and access to public transport. Our jobs mostly involve sitting with the development of computers and other technology.
We don’t get the exercise that we used to. One of the best ways to lower the risk of heart disease considerably is increasing the exercise you do. You’ll work on the heart muscle, boosting the amount of blood passing through the body. And since the heart is a muscle, the more you work it the better it will be.
Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease Today
It’s time to be brutally honest with yourself. While heart disease is considered a “man’s disease,” there are just as many women suffering. It’s become the leading cause of death in many women and is a second only to cancer in others. The concern for your health is growing every day, but as women, we don’t realize the size of the issue.
We can all do something to reduce the risk of heart disease. Getting more exercise, reducing stress levels, and improving the diet are three excellent steps to take. You’ll find your blood pressure and cholesterol levels decrease naturally, helping to remove two of the higher risk factors.
If you are worried, your doctor will help. Many of us are living with heart disease without any symptoms. The symptoms that we do get can go ignored or unacknowledged, especially due to the way they can feel like other conditions. Check regular checkups and look after your health to protect against heart disease.