Here’s something every woman should know – heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Many view heart disease as something that mostly affects men, but nearly the same number of women die from the disease every year.
“It’s definitely something that is overlooked,” says Heather Swales, MD, cardiologist with the Heart and Vascular Institute at The Hospital of Central Connecticut. “Women are not always paying attention to the warning signs. They’re not seeing their doctors or talking to their doctors about it.”
What is heart disease?
Dr. Swales says coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease and is usually the result of the buildup of plaque in your arteries over time. The arteries narrow over time, which limits blood flow to the heart and can ultimately cause a heart attack.
When women have heart attacks, their symptoms can be more mild.
Everyone should know the warning signs of a heart attack, which include:
- Uncomfortable pressure or pain in the center of your chest.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Trouble breathing.
- Breaking out in cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness.
“Both men and women are likely to have some type of chest pain or pressure, but women often have more mild symptoms,” Dr. Swales explains.
The good news is it’s preventable.
About 80% of coronary artery disease is preventable and can be addressed through lifestyle intervention, including:
- Maintaining a proper body weight.
- Avoiding tobacco or smoke exposure.
- Exercising regularly.
- Monitoring your blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels.
Mental health matters too, especially for women.
Surprisingly, mental health is also very important when it comes to overall heart health, according to Dr. Swales. In fact, stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than a men’s.
“Women with stress, depression and anxiety have worse outcomes following heart attacks than men do,” she says.
How can I learn more about heart disease?
The Hartford HealthCare’s Heart & Vascular Institute is inviting women and their girlfriends to its “Pinot & Prevention” event on Thursday, September 15 for a night of laughter, wine and education on heart disease in women.
Light appetizers, desserts and beverages will be served. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Heart & Vascular Institute’s Women’s Heart Wellness Program.
“Getting people together to listen to the information we provide helps women walk away with new insight and information that they can use for themselves and share with other women in their lives to help prevent and raise awareness about the risks of heart disease.”