Many women don’t think of heart disease as a major problem for them; however, that is far from the truth. There are more women than men who die every year from heart disease. It is the number one killer of women. The thing is, symptoms in heart disease differ between men and women.
Women do portray the normal risk factors that men do, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity, but there are also factors that play a more central role in heart disease in women. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome (a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides), mental stress and depression, smoking (a major contributor to heart disease in women), lack of physical activity, menopause (low estrogen, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol), and pregnancy all play a major role in heart disease in women that just don’t have the same effect on men.
Heart disease is something that can progress very slowly over time starting as young as age 25. It’s important to take care of yourself early on, because it’s very possible that too much damage can be done to your body by the time you realize that you need to make a change. Some symptoms of heart disease in women are:
-Persistent chest pain
-Severe and persistent shortness of breath
-Needing more pillows to sleep comfortably (people with heart failure tend to feel restless when lying down and shortness of breath, causing them to use more pillows to be comfortable)
-Rapid heart rate
-Rapid weight gain
-Progressive swelling or pain in the abdomen
-Increased swelling of the legs or ankles (this is a sign of fluid accumulation which means heart failure is worsening)
-Loss of appetite/nausea
The best way to avoid heart disease is to maintain a healthy diet and weight, exercise regularly, take all prescribed medications appropriately (blood pressure medications, blood thinners, and aspirin), and absolutely do not smoke. It was found that women who were smokers often have a heart attack 19 years before women who did not smoke. It is extremely important to maintain a healthy weight, with a BMI (body mass index) of 25 or less. As this number climbs, so does your risk for heart disease.
American Heart Association
Heart Failure Matters