Contributed by: Rachana Arya
Do you know what the leading cause of death among women is?
You may be surprised to learn that it’s not cancer — it’s cardiovascular disease.
Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in women remain substantially understudied, underrecognized, underdiagnosed, and undertreated.
Heart disease encompasses a variety of conditions that pose major health hazards, and some of these dangers impact women differently than males. Unfortunately, many women (and men) are unaware of critical information concerning the prevalence, severity, and treatment of heart disease, and some of these misunderstandings can be harmful or even fatal. It is important that you minimize your unique risk by understanding the reality behind these prevalent misunderstandings regarding women and heart disease. The more you understand how your heart functions, the better you’ll be able to keep it healthy – and detect the warning signs when it’s not.
Myth #1: Cancer is the leading cause of death among women
This is only one of many common misunderstandings concerning women’s cardiovascular health. At the global level, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Yet most women worry less about heart disease than cancer — despite the fact that heart disease kills roughly twice as many women as all forms of cancer combined together.
Myth #2: Heart disease is a male-specific illness
Heart disease is a huge cause of concern for all women — especially younger women. While it is true that men die from heart disease at a higher rate than women, the male death rate has been consistently declining for the past 25 years. Sadly, however, the same cannot be said with regard to women. Heart disease death rates among women under the age of 55 show no evidence of decreasing. In addition, women under 45 are more likely than males to die within a year of having their first heart attack.
Myth #3: You don’t have to be concerned if you don’t have a family history of heart illness
Heart disease affects a large number of women who have no family history of the disease. Many other variables, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, renal illness, high sodium intake, smoking, being overweight or obese, and physical inactivity, all raise the risk of heart disease. Furthermore, several sex-specific disorders appear to have an impact on the risk of heart disease
Myth #4: Women have the same heart attack symptoms as men
Chest pain or discomfort is the predominant indication of a heart attack for the great majority of people – men and women alike. During a heart attack, both men and women may experience chest pain, but that’s where the similarities end. Almost half of all women who suffer heart attacks show no signs or symptoms similar to men, such as discomfort down the left arm. Furthermore, 64% of women who die abruptly of a cardiac disease show no signs or symptoms. Women have subtler symptoms that might start up to a month before they have a heart attack. Some of the symptoms may be:
- Feeling of pain, pressure, or tightness in the middle of the chest
- Fatigue or weakness
- Aches and pains in the upper body, neck, or jaw
- Excessive perspiration, nausea, or vomiting
- Unexpected dizziness
- Breathing problems
- Sleeping issues
Myth #5: Clinical research on cardiovascular care accounts for gender disparity
Gender disparities in heart care research are frequently overlooked. The majority of study has focused on men’s hearts. Women have long been underrepresented in cardiovascular research studies. In addition, only around 25% of cardiovascular clinical trials publish gender-specific outcomes.
Myth #6: Only older women need to worry about heart disease
Many women mistakenly believe they won’t have to worry about heart disease until they’re in their 60s. While it’s true that women over the age of 50 are at an increased risk for heart disease, however, it can occur in women who are a long way from being senior citizens. So women of all ages should be concerned about the possibility.
Myth #7: Heart diseases cannot be prevented
While some risk factors are beyond your control, such as a family history of heart disease, luckily, there are other things you can do to lower the chances of cardiovascular diseases. One approach to reducing your risk is to keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides low. Treatment for sleep apnea, depression, and diabetes, as well as a slim waistline, a nutritious diet, stress management, and a daily routine consisting of physical activity, all assist to avoid heart disease.
It’s never too early to adopt heart-healthy habits and be kind to your heart.
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