Women and Heart Disease

Heart disease works in entirely different ways in women and in men. And it’s important to know what to look for, because not only is heart disease the number one killer of both women and men, it actually kills more women then men each year. More than one in three women who die every year die from heart disease.

Right now,more than 42 million women are walking around with heart disease, and most of them don’t know it, either because they don’t think it’s something women need to worry about or they’re not experiencing symptoms associated with heart disease in men. However, heart disease in women has a different set of symptoms. The symptom most people think of—chest pains—never even happens in half of all cases of heart disease in women. The signs to look for are fatigue, shortness of breath, indigestion or nausea, throat pain, and pain in the arms, particularly the left arm.

Little is known about heart disease in women, and few studies include women as subjects. However, there are some precautions that seem to help. Cigarette smoke, even secondhand, can raise your risk of heart disease, all the more so if you’re using hormonal birth control. Staying active and staying fit can help, as can a healthy diet; if you’re diabetic, it’s important that you keep it well-controlled. Another thing you should do is get your cholesterol levels and blood pressure checked regularly, and keep them under control.

High blood pressure can turn to heart disease quickly, but has no symptoms of its own. Excess salt can be bad for your blood pressure; indeed, sodium consumption may be the biggest single cause of hypertension. Eating right generally can help you maintain healthy blood pressure, particularly fruits and vegetables

If you think you may be having a heart attack, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately and tell them that you’re having symptoms of a heart attack. It’s important to get proper medical attention as soon as possible. Taking aspirin (but not other painkillers) will help, but it’s no substitute for proper care. Make sure to say you think you’re having a heart attack, and insist the emergency room personnel test for it; it may save your life.

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