Heart disease in women gets no respect. Unlike the widespread campaigns to fight breast cancer, heart disease is still largely ignored. An alarming 13% of American women believe heart disease is something to worry about when it comes to their health.* Now is the time to get serious about heart disease in women and prepare for a healthier menopause and several years after.
Women and heart disease
Despite the increased awareness over the last couple of decades, many of us still think of heart disease as a man’s disease. The stereotypical overworked and under-exercised middle age male springs to mind; not you or your best friend. Yet according to the American Heart Association, more women will die from heart disease than from breast cancer or even lung cancer.
Consider these statistics for American women in 2005, with similar figures for Canadian, Australian, and British women:
•Almost 37% of all female deaths are the result of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke
•Deaths from heart disease and related conditions: 668,185 – compared to deaths from all types of cancer: 268,890 (of those cancer deaths, 41,116 were due to breast cancer, and 67,894 due to lung cancer)
•After age 40, a woman has a 23% chance of dying in the first year following a heart attack, compared to an 18% chance for a man
Menopause and heart disease
Menopause itself is not a direct cause of heart disease, but as you go through menopause into the post-menopausal years (45-55) your risks increase significantly. Decades of poor lifestyle choices begin to catch up with women and make them more susceptible to a heart attack or stroke. This means trying to undo several years’ accumulation of bad health habits. While there are no guarantees, prevention and education are your best hopes for reducing your risk.
Signs that indicate a possible heart disease or heart attack: never take these steps lightly or dismiss them thinking heart disease does not happen to women. Seek medical attention for any of the following:
•Feeling very tired or lethargic
•Pain or tightness in the chest that often travels into the arms, jaw, neck, or shoulders
•Unexplained head or stomach pain
Prevention of heart disease means taking a few simple but powerful steps to manage your health and reduce your risk of becoming a statistic:
•Lower your cholesterol intake
•Cut out salt and all forms of sodium from your diet
•Reduce stress whenever possible
•Control your diabetes
•Understand your family medical history
Menopause gives you many things to be concerned about, and with advanced age comes an increase for heart disease. It’s time to understand that this is no longer a man’s disease, but a very real health concern; it can and it does happen to women.
*American Heart Association study of 1,000 women conducted in 2003 by Harris Interactive, Inc.
Learn more heart disease information at the following:
*American Heart Association www.americanheart.org
*http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/heartdiseaseinwomen.html is a direct link to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health
*http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118528.htm is a link to take you directly to the Food and Drug Administration site
*Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada www.heartandstroke.ca
*British Heart Foundation www.bhf.org.uk
*Heart Foundation (Australia) www.heartfoundation.org.au
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You