Heart Month: Women still at risk
In 2015, heart disease is expected to remain the leading cause of death in women.
That’s because strokes, heart attacks and congenital heart disease kill one woman every minute — more women than are killed by all cancers combined, according to the American Heart Association.
It's different for women
Despite these alarming facts, many women don’t even know they’re at risk, says Uma Krishnan, MD, director of MultiCare Health System’s Women’s Heart Center.
“Also, women usually seek medical attention rather late,” Dr. Krishnan says.
“Pay attention to symptoms, which are somewhat different for women than for men: chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, jaw pain, pain between the shoulder blades or being more tired than usual.”
A risk factor that sets women apart from men is complications during a past pregnancy, caused by diabetes or high blood pressure, for example.
Research also shows that the outcome of a heart attack is worse in women than men.
Dr. Krishnan urges women at high risk and those who haven’t had blood work done in a long time to visit their doctor for a heart check.
“Don’t wait for symptoms — high blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure can lead to heart disease before they cause any symptoms,” she says. “It’s important to know your numbers.”
Dr. Krishnan, who is board-certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease, advises women to take action on risk factors they can change.
In other words, quit smoking, eat a heart-healthy diet, exercise moderately for 30 minutes most days, and keep your weight at a healthy level.
Go Red for Women
There’s no better time to start protecting your heart than February, which is American Heart Month and the time we celebrate our hearts on Valentine’s Day.
Dr. Krishnan encourages everyone to wear red this Friday, Feb. 6 to support the annual “Go Red for Women” national campaign.
She says nearly 90 percent of women have made at least one healthy behavioral change since the first National Wear Red Day in 2003.
“We have come a long way but there’s still much to do. We need approaches specialized to the female gender when treating heart disease in women,” she says.
About The Author
For two decades, Kathleen has been writing about how our bodies work and how to keep them healthy. She is the mother of a college student and an ornery cat. Away from her writing desk, Kathleen loves to garden, read mysteries and hike with her husband. More stories by this author