Women’s Health Month: Heart Disease

As Women’s Month comes to an end, we’re looking at the biggest killer of women – heart disease. More heart attacks are still missed in women than men, and knowing the risk factors and being aware of the symptoms and warning signs could literally save your life.

Heart disease is the Number One killer of women

Heart disease kills more women each year than ALL cancers, chronic lung disease, pneumonia, diabetes, traffic accidents and AIDS combined.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, but only one in 40 will die of it. One in every four women will die of coronary artery disease or heart attack. One-third of these women’s heart attacks will go undetected.

Signs that can mean a heart attack is happening:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the centre of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or dizziness.
  • Women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. They are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

Risk factors you can change:

  • Smoking. Smoking has been called the most significant risk factor for heart attacks in women.
  • People who are 30% overweight are more likely to develop heart disease even if they have no other risk factors.
  • Lack of physical activity. Inactive people are twice as likely to develop heart disease as active people.
  • Waist circumference. As your weight goes up, so does your risk of heart disease.
  • Stress. Research shows that there is a connection between anger or stress and an increased risk of heart disease.

Be smart – know your heart

The bottom line is that nobody knows your body better than you. Pay attention to your symptoms and warning signs. Know the risk factors and take care of those you can control. Inform your doctor of anything that you suspect may be related to your heart health and be an active participant in the care of your heart.

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