You may have heard that heart disease in the No. 1 killer of men in the United States. But guess what? It’s the top cause of death for women, too. The National Institutes of Health reports that more than 250,000 women per year die of heart disease. Symptoms of heart disease in women, however, are often different than signs men often notice.
What causes heart disease in women?
The Centers for Disease Control says that 1 in 5 female deaths are because of heart disease. But many women worry much more about other threats to their health. Heart disease for women increases after menopause. One reason is that their bodies produce much less estrogen than before menopause. Estrogen seems to help preserve adequate levels of “good’’ cholesterol, which contributes to overall cardiovascular health. Older women are also more likely to have diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity and high blood pressure – a potentially lethal recipe. Smoking makes it even worse.
What are the symptoms of heart disease in women?
Some women have no symptoms, while some might experience more typical symptoms. Symptoms can sometimes seem vague, and dissimilar to the crushing chest discomfort many associate with heart attacks. You should see a doctor right away if you have these symptoms.
- Pain/discomfort in the neck, jaw or throat
- Pain/discomfort in the upper abdomen or back
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue and/or dizziness
- Pain/discomfort in one or both arms
- Nausea and/or indigestion
- Angina (dull and heavy or even sharp/stabbing chest pain/discomfort)
Sometimes, women may have no symptoms until they experience an emergency health situation. You should seek emergency care (call 911) if you have severe chest pain or discomfort, or other concerning symptoms such as: upper back or neck pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, dizziness, shortness of breath or swelling of ankles/feet.
Make an appointment today with cardiologist Michael Castine, MD, at Ochsner Health Center – West Bank.
How can I lower my risk?
- Know your blood pressure numbers. Ochsner has a great Hypertension Digital Medicine Program that allows you to take your own blood pressure readings from your own home and send them to specially trained pharmacists who receive the blood pressure readings and use this and other data to make treatment changes or medication adjustments as needed to ensure good blood pressure control. Many people only get their blood pressure taken once or twice a year in a doctor’s office. The digital medicine program allows you to take much more frequent readings in the comfort of your own home. Patients in the program also receive lifestyle education to help them lower their blood pressure.
- Stop smoking! Ochsner is partnering with the Smoking Cessation Trust to offer free counseling and medications for anyone wanting to make this healthy lifestyle change. Learn more about our smoking cessation clinics.
- Have you been tested for diabetes? If not, ask your primary care provider if you should be tested for it. Uncontrolled diabetes greatly raises your heart disease risk.
- Eat healthy. We have great recipes and ideas for making eating healthy fun and enjoyable.
- Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one drink per day.
- Learn to manage your stress levels.
- Exercise. Check out fitness ideas and advice from Ochsner trainers.