Heart disease kills one in three women each year—more than all cancers combined. That's why it is so important for women to understand their risk factors and learn the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
The heart—that powerful muscle pumping life into every system in our bodies—deserves a lot of care and attention. Women are often less likely to pay attention to heart health, which can delay needed exams and treatment. It’s important for women to stay alert and work to keep their hearts strong and steady throughout their lives.
Most common risk factors include:
- Family history of coronary artery disease
- Hypertension and high cholesterol
- Tobacco use, inactivity, and poor diet
- Other vascular diseases
While women experience the same heart attack symptoms as men (chest pain and pressure, shortness of breath), women may also experience other symptoms like abdominal pain, nausea, excess sweat, or lightheadedness during activity.
Is it a heart attack?
If you suspect or know you might be at risk for experiencing a heart attack, consult with your doctor. They can assess a diagnosis by:
- Ordering a stress test
- Checking troponin levels
- Doing an EKG
Reduce your risk
You may not be able to change your genetics, but a healthy lifestyle is critical in preventing disease and improving your body’s ability to recover. You can reduce your risk by:
- Increasing exercise (three to five times a week)
- Eating a plant-based, balanced diet
- Getting regular checkups
- Using appropriate medications
- Talking about concerns and making a plan for risk reduction
The American Heart Association is a great resource for providing a starting point for a healthy living and providing education about unique factors for coronary disease in women.