According to Harvard Health, heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women, yet women tend to have a lower survival rate than men. While a number of factors are thought to contribute to this statistic, perhaps one of the most important is that plenty of women don’t know how to identify when they’re having a heart attack. Symptoms can vary between the sexes as well as between individuals. And unfortunately, if one’s symptoms are too unusual or subtle, it’s easy to overlook the potential danger.
While heart disease threatens both men and women, women tend to dismiss or not recognize their symptoms and thus suffer more severely when a heart attack strikes. It’s absolutely vital for any woman who cares about her health to learn to identify and manage heart disease. Here’s what you need to know to maintain a healthy lifestyle and be prepared for a heart attack.
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A number of identifiable factors can contribute to heart disease or place you at a greater risk. These risk factors for heart disease include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Reproductive issues, including high-risk pregnancies or menopause
- Family history of heart disease
- Inflammatory diseases
If any of these apply to you, you could be at a higher risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack. Learn to pay attention to your body and recognize any symptoms you may display in an emergency.
Heart attack symptoms in women tend to slightly differ from symptoms experienced by men. A woman having a heart attack may notice several of these warning signs:
- Pain in the arm, back, neck, stomach, or jaw
- Pain, pressure, or a feeling of “fullness” in the chest, especially if the pain lasts several minutes or returns after a short pause. This is the most common heart attack symptom for both men and women.
- Cold sweat
- Shortness of breath
While both men and women are likely to feel chest pain during a heart attack, women are slightly more likely to also experience one or more additional symptoms: nausea, cold sweat, etc. If you feel chest pain and are tempted to chalk it up to heartburn or indigestion, first determine if you notice any other warning signs from your body. If you do, it’s very possible you’re having a heart attack and need emergency treatment.
Pro Tip: It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re experiencing several symptoms of a heart attack, don’t second-guess yourself! Go to an ER immediately.
Preventive Measures & Proactive Treatments
Heart disease is influenced by a multitude of factors ranging from genetics to lifestyle choices. Consequently, you can never fully eliminate your risk of developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack. However, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will lower your risk considerably. Work on developing the following good habits to improve your heart health:
- Exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise every week for adults.
- Treat and manage stress and depression
- Work toward and maintain a healthy body weight
- Cut down on alcohol consumption
- Quit smoking (and if you’re a nonsmoker, don’t pick up the habit)
- Eat whole foods and maintain a healthy diet
- Care for any health conditions you have
- Follow the treatment plan your doctor gives you
You are responsible for your own health, and you owe it to yourself to stay healthy and happy. Make your health a priority to protect yourself and sustain your long-term quality of life.
Take Care of Your Heart
The first step toward lower women’s mortality rates from heart disease is to learn to recognize your symptoms and take action accordingly. Never play with your heart health! The risk is simply not worth it. It’s better to have a false alarm at the doctor than to suffer a real heart attack with no one to help.
Connect with us to learn more about managing your heart health and identifying heart disease in women.