There are many risks of heart disease, however many can be prevented or reversed. If more than 40% of the deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease, then there’s a very real chance that you or someone you love could be affected.
Risks of Heart Disease
It is estimated that 87% of people who die of coronary heart disease are 60 years or older. The good news is that this leading cause of death can be prevented. So learn the signs and reduce your risk for developing heart disease.
- Smokers Beware
Smoking is the single biggest risk factor that you can control. A person that smokes is at a much greater risk for developing heart disease. In fact, as few as two cigarettes a day increases your risk and second hand smoke isn’t any better for you. Smoking exposes your lungs to carbon monoxide, which depletes the oxygen in your blood and causes plaques to build up in your arteries.
- Diabetes and Prediabetes
If you have diabetes or your doctor has told you that you’re pre-diabetic then you’re automatically at a higher risk for heart disease. Both diabetes and pre-diabetes mean that your insulin response isn’t working as it should be. It’s not telling your body to use the sugar in your blood for fuel.
This means that your blood glucose levels stay high. This causes inflammation in your arteries and plaques to build up.
As estrogen provides some protection from plaque buildups, post-menopausal and menopausal women with diabetes or pre-diabetes are at an even higher risk for heart disease.
- Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome
People who are overweight or obese and/or inactive have a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease. The heart has a much bigger job to do when a person is overweight. Additionally, because obesity is often caused by diet, one that is high in fats and sugars, plaques develop on arterial walls which also causes the heart to work harder.
Metabolic syndrome is caused by inactivity, high blood pressure, a high fat and high sugar diet amongst other things. Eating a healthier diet and getting regular physical activity can reverse both obesity and metabolic syndrome and thus eliminate or significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
- High cholesterol, high blood pressure, birth control pills and diet and exercise are all factors that also contribute to your risk of heart disease.
Simple lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in your heart health. Talk to your doctor to evaluate and reduce your risks.
It’s an interesting fact about heart disease that some of the risk factors can be controlled, while others simply cannot be.
For instance, your age, gender and race are all risk factors which you just have no control over. Women who have gone through menopause are more likely to have symptoms of heart disease than those who are younger.
Since you can’t control these risks, it’s important to work on controlling factors that you can! The factors which you can control include bad habits, such as smoking, your diet, maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and blood sugar levels.
It’s also an interesting fact that since women tend to experience stress differently than men, this is also a contributing factor in their heart disease risks. Due to this fact alone, it is even more important for women to make sure to take the time to reduce their stress levels.
How Cardiac Symptoms are Different for Women
Most people think of heart disease as these symptoms: discomfort in the center of the chest, squeezing in the chest, pressure, fullness, pain that goes away but then comes back. Those are the symptoms of men’s heart disease.
Symptoms of women’s heart disease go barely noticed and it’s become the number one killer of women because of that fact.
- The first difference between men and women is that women don’t usually get the chest pain that men do. In fact, lack of pain is the significant difference; one that also has women not bringing up the subject because they only feel a slight discomfort and don’t want to be a bother to anyone.
Even their doctors misdiagnose it to be more anxiety then illness. So women chalk it up to getting the flu, acid reflux or just aging.
- Another difference is how women feel angina pain. In men a squeezing in the chest is felt with great pain. Women experience it as a hot, burning sensation and not in the chest, but in shoulders, back, or jaw.
- Women having heart attacks vomit or have dry heaves. They experience shortness of breath, nausea, acid reflux, or extreme, sudden fatigue. Or even NO symptoms at all. Men usually have chest pain and clutch at their chest.
Women minimize their symptoms and unless they go out of their way to get the attention of a doctor, most doctors will not investigate further due to over demand on their own time and resources.
Many times a woman only knows she has had a heart attack is when a doctor examines a woman’s heart and sees damage from a “silent heart attack”, meaning a heart attack that went untreated because the woman had little to no pain. A great deal of damage can happen this way and weaken the heart.
Seek immediate medical help if you feel any of the following:
- Shortness of breath lasting more than 10 minutes
- Sudden sweating with no reason
- Sudden feelings of doom in a panicky way (this is a real symptom)
- Loss of consciousness or fainting
- Sudden severe vomiting or indigestion
- Sudden severe fatigue.
Women must start feeling that it is not alright to quietly suffer in silence. Get attention and seek help. Don’t put it off, or it can have far reaching implications to your family and you.
For a long time, these symptoms in women were dismissed as being “something else” that had nothing to do with the heart.
- Whether it was stress or anxiety, the connection between a sore back and jaw pain wasn’t made for many years, so women have been neglected when it comes to heart disease prevention and treatment for years.
Heart disease is not just a “man’s disease” and while there are many interesting facts about heart disease for both men and women, the bottom line is that each gender has different signs that they should know how to recognize and prevent.
The last major heart disease risk factor is your genetics. In other words, if you are a woman and your mother had heart disease, it’s likely that you could be at risk for it as well. You should always remember that just because you are genetically predisposed to this condition doesn’t mean you will get it.
Often, when you offset one major risk factor by eliminating others, you will find that you live a healthier, happier life than your family members who suffered with the condition.
Do you have any interesting facts about heart disease to share? Let me know in the comments below!