Heart Health + Women
By Stephanie Kritzberger, RN, BSN
A healthy heart is a very important part of overall wellness. Unfortunately, heart disease is the number 1 cause of death in women in the United States. The term heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, including coronary artery disease and heart attack. About 1 in 16 women age 20 and older (6.2%) have coronary artery disease, the most common type of heart disease. Learning about symptoms of heart disease, risk factors, and ways to reduce your risk of heart disease can all help increase your heart health.
What are symptoms of heart disease?
Many people know the typical symptoms of a heart attack – crushing chest pain and left shoulder and jaw pain. Women may experience these traditional symptoms, but they more often describe a heart attack as pressure or tightness. Women can also have symptoms unrelated to chest pain such as nausea, sweating, fatigue, and heartburn. Women are also more likely than men to experience symptoms at rest .
Other kinds of heart disease include irregular heart rhythm, or arrythmia, which may feel like the heart fluttering in the chest. Heart failure, or the heart pumping blood through the body with less effectiveness, includes symptoms such as difficulty catching your breath, fatigue, or swelling of the feet, ankles, legs, or stomach .
Risk factors for women
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of all people in the United States (47%) have at least one of these three risk factors. There are several other factors that can contribute to an increased risk of heart disease including diabetes, inactivity, obesity, an unhealthy diet, and drinking too much alcohol. Women with multiple risk factors and a family history of heart disease should consult their doctor or 365 Health to learn about available screenings, preventive measures and more .
There are a few things you can do now to reduce your risk of future heart disease. These include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet low in saturated fats and sugars, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight. You can also manage stress levels by finding a healthy way to cope with stress, limiting alcohol and establishing regular care with a primary care physician. Regular exercise, consisting of at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, has major health benefits.
It’s important to be your own advocate regarding your heart health. Knowing your family history of heart disease can help your physician in determining a preventive treatment plan. Generally speaking, women under the age of 40 should be screened every 3 to 5 years for signs of heart disease, with earlier screening being done based on risk factors. Women over the age of 40 should receive routine screening for heart disease every year. Getting your cholesterol and blood sugar checked at least yearly, if you have no other risk factors like diabetes, can help identify heart disease early.
Remember, women can have heart disease without symptoms. By paying attention to your risk for heart disease, you can take action to prevent problems or keep them from getting worse. 365 Health is here to help you keep your heart healthy and strong. Get affordable lab work done at a local Quest Patient Service Center or at an upcoming Health Fair!
- Mayoclinic.org. 2022. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors. [online] Available at: Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors – Mayo Clinic [Accessed 3 February 2023].
- CDC.com. 2022. Women and Heart disease. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/women.htm
365 Health strives to advance health awareness in Colorado, providing people with the tools they need to take responsibility for their own health. We do this through community Health Fairs, affordable health screenings, Health in Hand (our telehealth service), vaccination clinics, and much more! Learn more about our history and what we do HERE.