Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
Women & Heart Disease Update
Each year the American Heart Association (AHA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) compile the latest statistics on heart disease in the United States. According to the 2015 report, the death rate from heart disease has fallen about 39%. Nevertheless, heart disease remains the #1 killer of women, taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
Even though heart disease affects 1:3 women in the US, women often excuse their heart attack symptoms as being less life-threatening conditions such as acid reflux, flu or even signs of normal aging. In fact, only 1:5 women believe heart disease is a health threat for them, according to a Mayo Clinic study. This is compounded by the fact that symptoms of a heart attack can, and often do, differ in women versus men.
According to the AHA, 71% of women experience early warning signs of heart disease but fail to recognize them. Additionally, many are unaware of their personal risks for heart attack. Some of the risks factors include, but are not limited to, a family history of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, being overweight, having an inactive lifestyle, smoking or an unhealthy diet.
Many of these risk factors can be controlled by making modest changes. The Women’s Heart Foundation recommends that, “Every woman needs to take her individual heart disease risks seriously and take action to reduce those risks.”
Unfortunately, many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable—the image of someone clutching their chest and falling to the ground comes to mind—but in fact, women’s symptoms can be much subtler. Even when signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.
Heart Attack Signs In Women
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea/vomiting or sudden light headedness.
- Severe fatigue such as feeling like you have run a marathon but you haven’t made a move.
- Upper back pressure that feels like being squeezed or having a rope tied around the body.
- Of course women, as well as men, may experience the more traditional chest pressure and pain.
If you or someone you know has any of the above symptoms, the AHA recommends calling 911, and if advised by the personnel on scene, go to the hospital by ambulance. Do not drive yourself … your life may depend on it!
For information about your personal risk factors, see your healthcare provider. To learn more about heart disease in women, visit americanheart.org or womensheart.org, or call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our NEW wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.