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Women and Heart Disease: What You Need to Know

Feb. 16, 2017 at midnight

On her 30th birthday, Mika Leah decided to celebrate in the way she had so many times before -- by going on an easy hike. Having walked less than a mile, she forced herself to sit down because she was short of breath and dizzy. As pain shot down her arms and through her chest, she winced in misery. Despite having spent her life active in sports and eating healthy, Mika discovered that her left artery was 80 percent blocked close to her heart. The condition, which is also referred to as "the widow maker," is frequently fatal and often inherited.

While Mika was able to have surgery to repair the damaged artery, many others aren't so lucky. To be sure, cardiovascular diseases and stroke kill approximately one woman every 80 seconds. And it isn't just the elderly or overweight who are impacted. Rather, heart disease affects women of all ages, ethnicities, and lifestyles.

In recognition of February being Heart Health Month, we're bringing you some valuable information about women and heart disease. Given that approximately 44 million women have to contend with cardiovascular diseases in the United States, it's important to recognize the signs, symptoms, and preventative measures to avoid another fatality.

Good to Know

Heart disease strikes more women than men each year and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. Although breast cancer claims the life of one in 31 American women annually, heart disease is responsible for the deaths of one in three women every year.

At least 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.

Despite media's portrayal of heart attacks involving massive chest pain, women often experience a shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, dizziness, back or jaw pain, and extreme fatigue.

A change in lifestyle and education can prevent 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events.

One in four women dies from heart disease in the United States.

While the traditional risk factors for heart disease -- obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure -- apply to women, other factors play a role as well. Factors such as diabetes, pregnancy complications, menopause, depression, and smoking contribute to a much greater incidence of heart disease in women.

Losing even a small amount of weight can help by reducing a person's risk of diabetes and lessening their blood pressure.

Treatment for heart disease may include medications, coronary bypass surgery, angioplasty and stenting, and lifestyle changes. Unfortunately, women without chest pains are far less likely to be offered some of these lifesaving options.

Hispanic women often develop heart disease ten years earlier than Caucasian women.

A staggering 48.3 percent of African-American women have cardiovascular disease.

Whether you’re training for a marathon or simply want to enjoy life, your heart is the engine that propels you. Take a moment to reflect on your own health and learn ways to lessen your risk of cardiovascular problems.


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