There’s a misconception that heart disease is a men’s health issue more often than not. But the truth is, it’s the leading cause of death for women in America today. One in three women dies from heart disease.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of heart health in your overall well-being. Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, is a dangerous condition that occurs when blood vessels get narrow or blocked. Heart disease increases your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke, and women should take special measures to keep their hearts healthy throughout life.
Lori Haigler, MD, Richard Pavelock, MD, CMD, and the team at Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills provide expert cardiovascular care for women and men in and around Cameron, North Carolina. From managing high blood pressure to helping you understand your risk of developing heart disease, we’re here.
Call the office or request an appointment online to learn more about how women can protect their heart health.
Signs of heart problems can be different for women
Research shows that nearly two-thirds of women who die from heart disease showed no previous signs of a heart condition. Heart disease and other heart conditions go largely undiagnosed in women, so getting regular screenings is extremely important.
People with heart disease are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke. But these cardiac events can appear differently in women than in men.
For example, women are more likely than men to experience a heart attack without chest pain. Learning to recognize other common symptoms could help save your life or the life of someone close to you.
The signs of a heart attack in women can include:
- Heavy, aching chest pain
- Sharp pain in your neck, jaw, upper back, or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Unexplained tiredness
The signs of stroke are often:
- Numbness in your face, arms, or legs
- Difficulty speaking or understanding
- Blurred vision in one or both eyes
- Difficulty walking or staying upright
- Sudden severe headache
In the case of a heart attack or stroke, prompt medical treatment is crucial. If you or someone you know may be suffering a heart attack or a stroke, call 911 immediately.
Risk factors for heart disease
A number of factors increase everyone’s risk of heart disease. These risk factors include:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Family history
- Tobacco use
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet
Some of these risk factors impact women more than men, making it especially important that women understand their risk of developing a heart condition. Common factors that can lead to heart disease in women more often than men, or just in women, include:
- Stress or depression
- Tobacco use
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Pregnancy complications
How to keep your heart healthy
While you can’t change some risk factors for developing heart disease, you can do a lot to protect your heart health. Don’t smoke or use tobacco products. If you do smoke, get help in quitting.
Maintain a healthy weight by eating a balanced diet and getting regular exercise. A heart-healthy diet includes plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat or fat-free dairy products. To promote a healthy heart, you should avoid foods high in trans fats, salt, and added sugars.
Manage conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. If you have a preexisting health condition, taking your prescribed medications and going to the doctor regularly will help keep the conditions from compromising your health.
Getting regular well-woman exams as a part of your primary care plan is an important step to take for your heart health. At your appointment, don’t be shy about asking questions about your heart health and overall well-being.
To make your first appointment at Family Medicine and Acute Care of Sandhills, send us a message here on our website, use our convenient Appointment Request feature online, or give our office a call.