Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US and the most common cause of disability. In fact, heart disease kills almost twice as many women as breast cancer.
As heart health month winds down, we want to bring some awareness to women's heart health, in particular – what to look out for, and how to prevent heart disease in women.
All too often heart disease is seen as a man's illness. This misconception has led to a misunderstanding in symptoms for women.
Heart disease symptoms can be different for women
That pressure and pain experienced in the chest (angina) in men may not be experienced in the chest at all in females. Women may have blockages in small arteries as opposed to their main artery, making their symptoms different.
- Burning or tenderness in the back, shoulders, arms, or jaw may be signs of angina without chest discomfort.
- In women, angina may even take place when artery tests have come back “normal.” Too often, this causes doctors to misdiagnose symptoms.
All too often a fatal heart attack is the first sign of heart disease. Symptoms of a heart attack in women are more subtle than the common strong chest pain often associated with a heart attack:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Sweating or dizziness
- Extreme fatigue or shortness of breath
Both men and women should be proactive against heart disease by living a healthy lifestyle. However, this may be even more important for women. According to mayoclinic.org:
- Women with diabetes have a greater risk of heart disease than men with diabetes
- Women's hearts are more affected by stress and depression than men's
- Smoking is a greater risk factor for women
- Low levels of estrogen after menopause increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels
Make these few changes to decrease your chance of developing heart disease:
- Quit smoking
- Exercise regularly – 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise
- Eat a healthy plant-based diet – focus on vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains. Limit saturated fat, added sugar, excessive salt, and eliminate trans fat.
- Maintain a healthy weight. – BMI 18.5-24.9
Heart disease is preventable and often reversible with these lifestyle changes. Change can be hard, but lean on the Lord and He will help you start anew. Through prayer and support groups, these challenging, but achievable changes can be made. For more information, check out the Heart Disease section of our Wellness Library.
“For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” - Ephesians 2:10