Many of you might be seeing red tomorrow but don’t worry, it’s for a good cause. Friday, Feb. 3 is “Go Red for Women” day across the United States. While many traditionally associate heart attack and heart disease with men, the statistics paint a different picture. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease, not breast cancer, is the number one cause of death among women. In Texas, heart disease and stroke account for 29 percent of all female deaths. To put in further perspective, on average, nearly 64 women die from heart disease and stroke in Texas each day.
Go Red for Women day began in 2004 as a national campaign to help raise awareness of heart disease and stroke as the number one killer among women and to empower women to take charge of their heart health. Knowledge is power so read on to find out what the risk factors are for women and specific steps women can take to help prevent having a heart attack, and then don’t forget to wear red this Friday in honor of the worthwhile cardiac cause.
Why is heart disease more prevalent among women?
Part of the answer may be as simple as a lack of awareness among women. According to the American Heart Association, only about 54 percent of women recognize that heart disease is their number one killer and only 13 percent believe heart disease is their greatest personal health risk. The risk factors and even the symptoms of heart disease can vary greatly among men and women and are often misunderstood. “Women are more likely to describe chest pain as sharp, burning, and more frequently have shortness of breath as well as pain in the neck and jaw,” says Dr. Marcin Bujak, an interventional cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. “Other symptoms which might be misleading are dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, and pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, as well as extreme fatigue. These may occur during rest, begin during physical activity or be triggered by mental stress.”
Risk Factors Differ for Women
Men and women can both experience the more common heart attack symptoms such as shortness of breath, pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. However, there are a few risk factors that are more prevalent in women than men according to the American Heart Association.
What can you do to reduce your risk of a heart attack?
Dr. Bujak says there are steps women can take to help reduce the risk of having a heart attack and prevent heart disease. “It’s important to control your blood pressure and test for diabetes, kidney problems as well as high cholesterol, says Dr. Bujak. “If you smoke, quit. After just one year of not smoking, the excess risk of heart disease created by smoking is reduced 80 percent.” Studies have shown women who smoke are twice as likely to have a heart attack as male smokers.
Of course a healthy diet is an important factor in maintaining heart health as well. Throughout the month of February, we will be sharing heart healthy recipes as part of “Foodie Fridays,” right here on our Everyday Well blog.
Make your heart health a priority this year. Schedule your annual checkup to measure blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol to look for the signs of heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association estimates 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.