According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is still the leading cause of death for American women. In 2019, over 300,000 women (approximately one in five) died from heart disease in the United States. While awareness about the dangers of cardiovascular disease has been on the rise for years, millions of American adults continue to develop heart disease every year.
Like other serious and life-threatening illnesses, prevention and early intervention are the best tools to fight heart disease and prevent heart attack and cardiovascular-related deaths. At Midwest Regional Health Services, we offer a range of women’s health and preventive care services at our office in Omaha, Nebraska.
Why are women more likely to die after a heart attack?
According to the American Heart Association, women face a 20% higher risk of dying within five years of a severe heart attack than men. While researchers and medical professionals are still trying to understand why heart attacks tend to be more severe and fatal for women, data suggest that women tend to have heart attacks when they’re older and also suffer from additional health problems and complications.
Another possible link to higher mortality rates for women is that heart attack symptoms are often different and more subtle in women than men, which makes it more difficult for female heart attack patients to receive critical early care during a cardiac event.
Do you know the signs and symptoms of a heart attack in women?
Most people are familiar with the classic signs and symptoms of a heart attack — chest pain, difficulty breathing, and a sharp or radiating pain in the left arm. What many people don’t realize is that heart attack symptoms can be very different in women, making it easier to miss or misdiagnose the symptoms until it’s too late.
While there can be overlap between male and female heart attack symptoms, there are additional heart attack symptoms for women that might surprise you:
- Abdominal pain
- Neck/shoulder/jaw pain
- Upper back pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in either or both arms
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and/or lightheadedness
Since heart attack symptoms are often more subtle in women and overlap with other conditions, they’re easier to dismiss, preventing women from getting critical early treatment and intervention, especially if they also suffer from other medical conditions like diabetes.
How to lower your risk of heart disease and heart attacks
Maintaining a healthy weight, getting regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking are at the top of the list for maintaining a healthy heart (for men and women). Preventive care is also very important, especially if you have a history of heart attack and cardiovascular disease in your family.
That includes checking your blood pressure and cholesterol on a regular basis, and keeping your blood sugar under control if you also suffer from diabetes. Since women tend to live longer and suffer from heart attacks later than men, ongoing preventive care is especially important with age.
For more information about heart disease and what you can do to protect yourself, contact Midwest Regional Health Services today to schedule an appointment with one of our primary care doctors.