Get facts from the Northwest on women’s heart health
Heart disease affects men and women in equal numbers. But the warning signs for heart attack are different for women — and they aren’t as commonly known as the symptoms men experience. As a result, many women suffering from a heart attack don’t know they’re having one until it’s almost too late.
Dr. Abhimanyu Uberoi, an interventional cardiologist with Kaiser Permanente Northwest, explains the risk factors and symptoms specific to women.
The heart health risks women face
First, some quick facts:
- 1 in 5 women has some form of heart disease.
- Heart disease kills more women than men.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women.
- Heart disease kills more women than breast cancer and the next 7 leading causes of death combined.
Why are women at higher risk for heart disease? While heart health is often considered a result of lifestyle choices, there are also biological factors that make women particularly vulnerable.
“Some risk factors are the same for men and women, such as metabolic syndrome — a cluster of factors including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and cholesterol. But for women, hormones can also play a role,” explains Dr. Uberoi. “Estrogen is thought to be cardio-protective, so after women hit menopause and their estrogen levels decrease, they may be at greater risk to get heart disease.”
A different set of symptoms
Heart attacks can also present differently in men and women. Men often experience chest pain that can spread to the arms and jaw. But women can experience different symptoms, including:
- Nausea (most common symptom)
- Shortness of breath
While hormones can increase a woman’s risk as she grows older, there are many ways to help prevent and manage heart disease. Nutrition, exercise, and stress management techniques can all go a long way. If you’re concerned about your risk of heart attack, schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your individual risk factors and what you can do to give your heart every advantage.
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