What do you think is the most common cause of death among women? If you said “heart disease,” you’re one of a growing number of people recognizing the central role of heart health in women.
Heart disease is responsible for about one in three deaths of American women. Despite rising awareness of the problem, heart attack rates have also been rising in women under 55.
Luckily, about four in five cases of heart disease can be prevented through lifestyle changes. But many women haven’t made the connection between their health and heart disease risk.
A 2018 survey found that about six in 10 women weren’t aware of their own cholesterol levels, body mass index or other factors that could lead to heart disease. Figuring out where you stand and making a change can dramatically lower your risk of having a heart attack at any age.
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
The reason for the increase in heart attacks among women younger than 55 isn’t exactly known. But researchers suggest that rising rates of heart disease risk factors — including high blood pressure and diabetes — likely play a role.
There’s a lot you can do to safeguard your heart at any age:
- Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity such as brisk walking each week and do two or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises.
- Don’t smoke, or quit smoking if you do.
- Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, fish and low-fat dairy (skim or 1%) products.
Your heart health is a marathon, not a sprint. That’s why it’s important to check in regularly with wellness exams.
Women’s Heart Attack Warning Signs
Keep in mind that heart attack symptoms can be different for women than they are for men. For instance, in addition to chest pain, women are more likely to experience at least one of these other symptoms:
- Back or Jaw Pain
- Cold Sweats (Unrelated to Menopause)
- Dizziness or Light-Headedness
- Heavy Pressure on the Chest
- Nausea and Vomiting
- Shortness of Breath
- Sudden Fatigue
If you notice any of these heart attack signs, call 911 and get to an emergency room right away.
Though many of the lifestyle changes behind a healthy heart happen outside a doctor’s office, we want to guide and support you. Ideally, the healthy choice should be the easy choice.
To learn more about how we keep your whole-person health in mind, please click here.