Women and heart disease: prevention is key

Heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death among women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

“Heart disease can affect us all, but this disease is the leading cause of death and greatest health threat for women in Pennsylvania and the United States,” said Acting Pennsylvania Health Sec. Alison Beam. “It is essential that women know the signs and symptoms of heart disease, as they are often different from those in men. Heart disease is preventable, and we are committed to creating a healthy Pennsylvania for all and promoting behaviors that reduce the risk of disease, including heart disease.”

Some women with heart disease have no symptoms, but others may have a dull and heavy or sharp chest pain, pain in the neck, jaw or throat, and pain in the upper abdomen or back. Men may experience chest pain.

Women may also have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Sometimes, heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until other symptoms or emergencies occur, such as a heart attack, arrhythmia (fluttering feeling in the chest), or heart failure.

It is important to see your doctor and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly to reduce your risk of heart disease.

The American Heart Association offers steps you can take to proactively work to have a healthy heart:

  • Choose healthy foods and drinks
  • Be physically active
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation
  • Manage stress.

In addition to the ways you can work to keep a healthy heart, it is important to realize that age and family history can also put you at risk for heart disease.

Your risk is higher if:

  • You are a woman over age 55;
  • You are a man over age 45;
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55; and/or
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.

For more information on heart disease, visit www.heart.org.