For Us women, heart disease remains the leading cause of death, but all too often, they fail to seek out prevention and treatment. Here, what every woman should know.
Many women don’t worry about heart disease, or if they do, they focus only on how it may affect the men in their lives. According to experts, however, this attitude could wind up being a costly mistake.
While estrogen does give women some protection against the disease (at least until menopause), heart disease remains the leading killer of American women. Fortunately, there are some guidelines women can follow to lower their risk.
As with many things, prevention is the key to reducing your heart disease risk, and two major factors—obesity and smoking—are in your control.
hearts specialist says women sometimes develop the a cluster of conditions, which are linked to a high risk of heart disease: obesity; diabetes; high blood pressure, also known as hypertension; polycystic ovarian disease; and depression.
To lower your risk, she recommends the following:
• Maintain a healthy weight.
• Eat a balanced diet that helps keep cholesterol levels under control.
• Don’t smoke.
• Talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of hormone replacement therapy.
Watch and Test
Uppalapati recommends that all women at risk for heart disease be tested, even if they don’t have any symptoms, because symptoms in women can be more subtle than they are in men. “Women may have shortness of breath, feel tired, and maybe just have neck, jaw, or upper back pain,” she says. “It’s so common to hear women say, ‘I’m just not feeling well,’ with no additional symptoms.”
Search for Signs
In women, a stress test with an EKG has a higher rate of false positives than in men, warns Uppalapati, who recommends combining a stress test with an ultrasound, which can check for other heart problems.
She notes that with a good image from an ultrasound, you shouldn’t need a nuclear scan, which sometimes returns a false positive in women due to a breast shadow.
Uppalapati says that because women’s symptoms can be mild, they often postpone seeking treatment. But remember: Women need to get to the hospital early so doctors can clear any blockage.