Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. The problem is both social and diagnostic in nature – women are more likely to neglect or misread some of the warning signs and may not be aware of appropriate measures. With every passing year, the risk of heart disease increases. And yet, women of all ages need to pay attention to their heart health.
The risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and being overweight. Be aware of where you stand AND learn to to recognize the symptoms. Remember, the symptoms of a heart attack in women are not the exact same ones seen in men.
Known symptoms of a heart attack are pressure in the chest, pain in both arms, nausea, and lightheadedness. Along with severe pain in the chest, the neck, jaw, shoulders, the back, and the abdomen can also be affected. So watch out for these too.
Types Of Heart Disease To Watch Out For
The most common types of heart disease in women are coronary heart disease, coronary microvascular disease, and broken heart syndrome.
- Coronary heart disease is a result of the buildup of plaque over time on the inner walls of the arteries, blocking the smooth flow of blood. This blockage can lead to a heart attack.
- Coronary microvascular disease is harder to diagnose because blockages happen at the microvascular level, in the heart’s tiniest of blood vessels. While symptoms are similar to those of a heart attack occurring as a result of coronary heart disease, this form of heart disease is more deadly since it is at a micro level. Unfortunately, women are more likely to suffer from this than men.
- Broken heart syndrome is a form of heart disease where extreme emotional distress can lead to severe (but usually short-term) failure of the heart. Women (especially older women) are more likely to suffer from this than men. Symptoms are similar to a heart attack and a person can feel discomfort in the chest and develop heart failure. Shortness of breath is another symptom. Heart function can return to normal post-treatment. Recurrence is a possibility.
Fight Heart Disease With The Right Lifestyle Changes
Eat the right foods: Salmon, tuna, olive oil, orange juice, nuts and some seeds like walnuts, almonds, and flaxseeds are all proven to be excellent heart-friendly dietary options.
Stop smoking: Smoking harms your heart and leads to other complications as well.
Exercise regularly: Working out three to five times a week for a good half hour or so has excellent cardiovascular benefits.
Stay lean: Maintain the right weight for your age and body composition. Watch out for that waistline!
De-stress: Meet friends, spend time with family, read a nice book, go outdoors. Take some “me-time” to do what you love.
Get a physical examination at least once a year, learn about your family’s history of heart disease, know your risk factors… and never ignore your body’s signals, however subtle!