Prevention and Wellness

Heart and Vascular Health

Premier Health doctors answer frequently asked questions about women's heart and vascular health

Should all women consider themselves at risk for heart disease? What risk factors can women control?

Dr. Alappatt discusses women’s risk for heart disease and risk factors they can control. Click play to watch the video or read the transcript

 

All women should consider themselves at risk for heart disease because heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC). One in every four women’s deaths are caused by heart disease.

While some risk factors, such as family history, cannot be changed, there are risk factors women can choose to control. According to the CDC, risk factors of heart disease that women can choose to improve include:

  • Alcohol use in excess
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL
  • Obesity and overweight
  • Physical inactivity
  • Poor diet
  • Smoking

For more information about risk factors for heart attack that women face, talk with your doctor.

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What role do diabetes and obesity play in heart health?

People with diabetes are at a higher risk of getting heart disease, according to the American Heart AssociationOff Site Icon (AHA). Even if you have your blood sugar levels under control, having diabetes increases your risk of heart disease.

Having diabetes makes it two to four times more likely that you will also have heart disease, according to the AHA, which includes diabetes as one of the heart disease risk factor that you can control.

Another risk factor of heart disease that you can control is obesity. Central obesity – which means having extra weight around your waist – increases your risk of heart disease, according to the National Institutes of HealthOff Site Icon (NIH). This is because stomach fat increases LDL cholesterol, which is bad cholesterol that builds up inside the walls of your blood vessels.

The better you can control risk factors like diabetes and obesity, the more you can reduce your risk of getting heart disease.

For more information about how diabetes and obesity affect heart disease, talk with your doctor.

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How has awareness of heart health in women changed over the years?

Heart disease has been commonly known as a “man’s disease,” but statistics have shown that about the same number of women die from heart disease in the U.S. each year, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon] (CDC).

In the last 10 years, there has been an effort to increase women’s awareness of their risk of heart disease. Even with that increase, only about half of women know the heart disease is their No. 1 killer, according to the CDC.

Women’s symptoms of heart disease and heart attack are not always the same and not always as easy to recognize as men’s symptoms, according to the CDC. That is why a huge part of increasing women’s awareness is teaching the symptoms specific to them.

Some heart disease symptoms in women, according to the CDC, include:

  • Back pain
  • Burning in the chest
  • Chest pain or discomfort – could be dull, heavy or sharp
  • Pain in the neck, jaw or throat
  • Pain in the upper abdomen

Sometimes, heart disease has no symptoms in women. It can be described as silent, and sometimes isn’t diagnosed until a woman has an abnormal heart rhythm, heart attack, heart failure or stroke, according to the CDC.

To find out more about how women are being made aware of their risk of heart disease, talk with your physician.

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What are practical steps women can take to help prevent heart disease?

Heart disease has long been thought of as a “man’s disease,” but statistics show that women are at as high a risk as men to be affected by heart disease, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

The CDC suggests women take the following steps to help prevent heart disease:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked
  • Limit alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage diabetes

Another easy step women can take to prevent heart disease is simply becoming more educated about and aware of the disease, according to the CDC.

For more information about women’s heart disease prevention, talk to your physician.

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Should heart disease warnings be different for women and men?

Warning signs of heart disease can be different for men and women, so women should know what signs can cause a heart attack, according to the Disease Control and PreventionOff Site Icon (CDC).

Some common signs of heart diseases, according to the CDC), are:

  • Cold sweats
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Pressure in the chest (unusually heavy), like a ton of weight on top of you
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Sharp pain in the upper body
  • Unusual tiredness

If you have any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for emergency help, according to the CDC.

Talk to your doctor for more information about warning signs of heard disease.

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Source content: Anessa Alappatt, MD, Fairborn Medical Center; George Broderick, Jr., MD; The Premier Heart Associates

Content Updated: April 9, 2015

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