For years the face of heart disease has been an old man clutching his chest. Times need to change. If you are neglecting your heart health because of the myth that heart disease only affects old men, then you are putting yourself at serious risk. The Public Health Agency of Canada warns that cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of women over the age of 55. In fact, women are in more danger than men.
While the rate of heart disease related deaths in men has declined significantly over the past few decades, thanks to awareness and prompt treatment, the rate in women continues to lag behind.
Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Women
Heart disease may show up later in women, and the symptoms may be different from those of men, but make no mistake: the threat is just the same. While chest pain is the most common symptom of heart disease, women may experience other symptoms:
- Pain in your neck, arm, back, or jaw
- Sweating and shortness of breath
- Indigestion or nausea
- Unusual tiredness
- Trouble sleeping
- Severe anxiety
Women are six times more likely to die of heart disease than breast cancer. Considering how diligent and aware women are about the need to regularly check for signs of cancer, keeping an eye on their cardiovascular health should be even more important.
Cardiovascular disease is the single, largest cause of death among women, causing nearly 8.6 million deaths a year, about one third of all death in women worldwide. In Canada, more women die of heart disease every year than of the next sixteen leading causes of deaths combined (including cancer). And while the rate of heart disease related deaths in men has declined significantly over the past few decades, thanks to awareness and prompt treatment, the rate in women continues to lag behind.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada suggests that oestrogen offers some protection against heart disease and stroke when they are younger, but the benefits begin to decline as women age. Pharmaceutical sources of estrogen, such as oral contraceptives can actually increase the risk of a heart attack, when combined with other factors such as high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking. Smoking simply compounds the risk of heart disease, and with every cigarette you smoke, the higher your risk becomes. Second-hand smoke alone can cause up to a 30% greater risk of cardiovascular disease.
The Heart and Stroke Foundation says that the key to protecting yourself in the event of heart problems is to be aware of the warning signs and act on them quickly. Receiving prompt treatment can make all the difference in the world. Take a moment to consider your own risk factors. Making the following lifestyle changes can help lower your risk:
- Developing a health-conscious diet
- Begin, or maintain, a healthy exercise program
- Drink alcohol only in moderation (1 glass of red wine is actually recommended!)
- Making sure that you take care of your Diabetes
- If you smoke. Quit.
- Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked and dealt with if abnormal
Get tested for cardiovascular disease, even if you don’t think you are at risk. Cardiac tests such as a 12-lead ECG and echocardiogram can detect hidden heart defects, that may not cause symptoms, but can result in sudden cardiac death – even in young women. Stress testing and coronary computed tomography angiography (CCTA) can also help to accurately and precisely determine your level of risk.
False Creek Healthcare’s Cardiac Protection Plan provides access to world-class cardiovascular expertise and technology. The program will assess your current cardiac condition, and recommend a protection plan to limit your risks for cardiovascular disease.
Knowing ahead of time, and being able to create a plan to decrease these risks can ensure a healthier and longer life for women. Preventing heart disease before it starts just makes sense.
In good cardiac health,