Heart Disease: An Equal Opportunity Killer

Why women need to start listening to their hearts

A lot happens in 60 seconds: Lightning strikes the planet 360 times, 58 airplanes take off, 250 babies are born, 243,000 photos are posted to Facebook, 7,150,000,000 human hearts thump at various rates – and for at least one woman, hers stops. Approximately one woman each minute will succumb to heart disease, making it the leading cause of death.

Red flag symptoms every woman should know about

While there are risk factors, all women face the possibility of heart disease, so it’s important to be familiar with the symptoms. Though the condition can accrue with no symptoms, in general, women who have them tend to experience the following:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, and/or throat
  • Pain in the back, or upper abdomen
  • Angina – chest pains that may be dull, sharp, or simply feel like discomfort.

One of the most clear consequences of untreated heart disease is a heart attack. Much like in the case of a stroke, the faster you recognize that you’re having one, the better. Heart attacks are less likely to present as chest pain in women than in men. Unfortunately, most women aren’t familiar with female heart attack symptoms, and assuming nothing is wrong, wait to seek help until there’s already damage to the heart.

A woman having a heart attack may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, back, or upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in either or both arms
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal fatigue

If you’re experiencing these symptoms or otherwise suspect you’re having a heart attack, call emergency services immediately and follow their instructions.

When to be more cautious

High cholesterol levels, obesity, and high blood pressure are just as lethal to women as they are to men, so it’s important to keep track of those measurements. Other factors that increase risk include:

Smoking: The chemicals inhaled with cigarette smoke inflame the cellular lining of blood vessels, damage that directly contributes to a range of cardiovascular maladies, such as stroke, abdominal aortic aneurysms, and coronary heart disease.

Inactivity: If you’re not getting a minimum of 2.5 hours each week of moderate aerobic exercise per the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you’re not getting enough. The heart is a muscle; the more you work it, the stronger it grows and the more efficient your entire system becomes. If you’re able to find an activity you enjoy, such as evening walks with a friend, those 2.5 hours will fly by.

Diabetes: Women with type 2 diabetes are three times as likely to incur a fatal cardiovascular disease-related death than women who aren’t diabetic. This is due to the damaging effects of high blood sugar on blood vessels and the nerves controlling the heart, in addition to increasing cholesterol levels.

Always be prepared!

Whether you’re a man or woman, heart disease is the biggest threat to our individual vitality and survival. Knowing the risk factors and recognizing symptoms early on can save lives – and so does knowing how to save a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) victim.

The majority of heart attacks are survivable with quick medical treatment, built those that lead to sudden cardiac arrest are much more fatal. Only 10.6% of SCA victims treated by emergency medical services died, whereas the survival rate jumped to 31.4% if a trained bystander jumped in early to help. The more of us who know CPR and who have access to and use automated external defibrillator (AEDs), the more likely we are to be lifesavers.

One Beat CPR offers training for families, individuals, and medical professionals so we can all be prepared when faced with an emergency. Connect with us today to find out more.