The leading cause of death for women is heart disease. Men are often thought of as being more at risk for a heart attack than women, however, women need to take their heart health as seriously as men.
Most symptoms of heart attack are the same for men and women, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. However, women often have symptoms that are more apparent than these. Other signs of a heart attack for women are:
- Chest discomfort or pressure
- Pain in one or both arms
- Pain in the neck, back, jaw or stomach
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
Men and women share many factors of heart disease including:
- High blood pressure
Many factors of heart disease disproportionately affect women over men including:
- Increase blood pressure during menopause: During menopause, women tend to gain more weight due to hormone changes. This causes their blood pressure to become more sensitive which can lead to hypertension or heart disease.
- Diabetes: Those with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease than those who do not have diabetes. Often for diabetic women, heart disease occurs earlier in life than in diabetic men.
- Autoimmune diseases: Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other inflammatory autoimmune illnesses put women at a higher risk of heart disease.
- Depression, stress and anxiety: Keeping a healthy lifestyle can be more difficult for women. Depression, stress and anxiety affect a woman’s ability to maintain a lifestyle that doesn’t put them at risk of heart disease.
- Low estrogen levels: After menopause, low levels of estrogen can cause altered lipid metabolism thus increasing the risk of heart disease.
- Pregnancy complications: Developing high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can become long-term and increase the mother’s risk of heart disease.
Women can change their lifestyles to help reduce and prevent the risk of heart disease. The following are ways that are recommended to lower a woman’s risk of heart disease:
- Modify diet to include healthy meals
- Quit smoking and reduce alcohol consumption
- Exercise frequently
- Manage stress levels
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep per night
- Get regular health screenings
If you’re concerned about your heart health, UofL Health’s team of heart care providers may be able to help. Visit UofLHealth.org to learn more or schedule your appointment today.