What Every Woman Needs to Know about Heart Disease
Heart disease is still the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Even with awareness campaigns and education, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.[i]
Heart disease is a condition that either narrows or blocks blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack. It is an umbrella term to describe cardiovascular issues such as congenital heart defects, arrhythmias, and coronary artery disease, to name a few. These conditions increase risks of a heart attack.
The importance of education and recognizing signs could save a life. In this article we will look at:
- Signs of a heart attack
- Silent symptoms of a heart attack
- Surprising symptoms of a heart attack
- Menopause and heart disease
- Ways to prevent a heart attack
Every woman faces the threat of heart disease, but when you are armed with an awareness of early signs, have a heart-healthy diet, and get regular exercise, you are one step closer to prevention.
Signs of a Heart Attack (from the American Heart Association)
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.[ii]
*If you or anyone you know is experiencing these symptoms call 911 immediately.
Silent Symptoms of a Heart Attack
Silent heart attacks don’t always present symptoms in typical ways. Some women have reported feeling like they have the flu, have pain or discomfort in their upper back, or have unexplainable excessive fatigue.
These symptoms mask themselves to be related to something else but should not be ignored.
Causes of a silent heart attack in women
Varying research points to silent heart attacks being more prevalent in women than men. It is unclear as to why, but one thought is that women attribute the symptoms to anxiety or other health factors.
Risk factors associated with silent heart attacks, like recognizable symptoms, are as follows:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Family history
The cardiac event leaves damage and scarring to your heart and puts you at risk for additional heart issues in the future. Be aware of this life-threatening attack and be proactive. Check with your healthcare provider about potential risks you may have.
Surprising Symptoms of a Heart Attack
There are silent and surprising symptoms accompanying heart disease and heart attacks. Some not-so-well-known symptoms are as follows:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue[iii]
Younger women should also be alert to signs and symptoms of heart disease, especially if heart disease runs in the family.
Menopause and Heart Disease
Risk factors for heart disease rise after the onset of menopause due to age, lifestyle changes, and even unhealthy habits from earlier on in life.
With every passing year, women should take an inventory of their health and be aware of potential harmful effects of lifestyle choices such as poor diet, smoking, and lack of activity.
More than one in three female adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. An overall increase in heart attacks among women is seen about 10 years after menopause, according to a report by the American Heart Association.
Does estrogen play a role in heart health?
As women age, the natural hormone estrogen declines. The drop in estrogen has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Research regarding the relationship is on the rise.
“Estrogen has many important effects on the cardiovascular system. Premenopausal females have reduced cardiovascular disease, and the incidence of disease increases after menopause. Estrogen has been shown to improve the lipid profile, thereby reducing the development of atherosclerosis. Estrogen increases NO signaling in the vasculature and to improve vessel responsiveness. Estrogen has also been reported to reduce the onset of type 2 diabetes, to improved insulin responsiveness, to alter glucose metabolism, and to alter mitochondrial biogenesis.”[iv]
Despite the benefits of estrogen, the American Heart Association recommends against using postmenopausal hormone therapy to reduce the risk of heart disease due to the fact various studies indicate there is no risk reduction.
Other factors that surface with menopause are increased blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol. All of these factors contribute to elevated risks.
Cardiovascular Health for Women
Healthcare professionals will agree that living a healthy lifestyle now and continuing as you age lowers risks. While family history cannot be discounted, some of the wisest choices for a healthy heart is regular exercise and a diet that consists of…
- Whole grains
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean meats
- Limited sugar foods, sugary beverages, and red meats
Many have found taking supplements such as Dead Sea Moringa has helped increase energy, regulate blood sugar, lower blood pressure, has had positive effects on type 2 diabetes, helps with weight control, and fights malnutrition. In addition to cardiovascular health, these conditions often become problematic with age. Getting adequate necessary vitamins and minerals out of food alone can be difficult. Adding a quality supplement could jump-start your way to better health no matter your age.
[iv] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3398381/ The National Center for Biotechnology Information