Women Are at Risk for Heart Disease, too!
That means the average woman reading this will more likely develop
and die from heart disease than breast cancer or any of the next 15
leading causes of death in women combined. One in two women will
eventually die of heart disease or stroke, compared with one in 27 who
will eventually die of breast cancer.
The numbers are startling. Baptist Memorial Health Care has conducted
research that shows in the Memphis metro area, 87 percent of Mid-South
women between the ages of 40 and 70 are at risk for having a heart
attack. But only 29 percent know it. This is alarming.
So, what are the major risk factors for heart disease? They include
smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes and
being overweight or physically inactive. Other risks include stress and
high alcohol intake. Children of parents who’ve had heart disease are
more likely to develop the disease, as well as women as they get older –
after menopause. As women age, they produce less estrogen, which helps
them maintain lower levels of “bad” cholesterol, higher levels of “good”
cholesterol and reduces blood pressure. In general, African Americans
are at greater risk for heart disease.
That’s the bad news. Here’s the good news – you can lower your risk
for developing heart disease. If you smoke – stop smoking. It’s one of
the leading risk factors, period. Eat more fruits and vegetables, and
cut back on foods high in fat and cholesterol, such as fried foods,
processed fast foods (hamburgers) and my personal favorite, doughnuts.
Make this a fun opportunity to improve your diet – take a healthy eating
cooking class or start a cooking club with friends or a church group.
Along with improving your diet, start an exercise program and lose
weight, this is especially important if you’re overweight because this
is a major risk factor for heart disease. Check your blood pressure and
cholesterol levels regularly. If the numbers are high, work with your
physician or health care provider on improving in these areas.
The single biggest thing you can do to increase your chances of
surviving a heart attack is learn the symptoms of heart disease and know
what to do if you develop them. Since the symptoms can differ for women
and men, it’s especially important that you know when something’s
wrong. So here are the general symptoms for heart disease - sweating,
chest pain, shortness of breath and pain in the left arm. These are the
classic symptoms that most men exhibit.
But you need to pay special attention to the less typical symptoms,
which are more common in women. Indigestion. Difficulty breathing or
tightness of the chest, which can last more than a few minutes or go
away and come back. Dizziness. Vomiting. Unexplained fatigue. Pain
around the shoulder blade area. If you’re ever in doubt, call your
physician or go to the emergency room. Be sure to explain to the
physician what you’ve been feeling and why you think you’re at risk.
For more information about heart disease, call your health care
provider or the Baptist HeartLine at 1-866-HRT-2-HRT. In February,
Baptist joined the VHA, a national health organization, and 16 other
nationally renowned medical facilities for the first-ever hospital-led
campaign to improve awareness and treatment of heart disease in women.
This local initiative includes a phone line dedicated to providing
information and resources to women in the Memphis community on this
issue. Top area physicians, community leaders and heart patients have
joined this committee to help spearhead this initiative in Memphis.
Local and national quality health care providers are committed to
empowering all women and giving them an advantage over heart disease.
Now that you’re armed with this information, it’s up to you to take
action. Become your own health advocate. Talk to your physician about
the risk factors for women and take steps to reduce your susceptibility
to heart disease. Start now.