Addressing Heart Disease in Women

The number one killer of women is heart disease. It is estimated that 1 in 4 women die each year from heart disease. For women, heart disease can have different symptoms than men. It’s not something women like to think about, but it’s become impossible to ignore.

Heart disease affects the blood vessels and the cardiovascular system. Plaque build-up in the arteries, called atherosclerosis, makes it harder for blood to flow, increasing chances for a heart attack. Heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems also contribute to stress on the heart and can result in a heart attack.

For women, heart disease symptoms are mainly caused by “coronary microvascular disease.” This is because women tend to have blockages in their small arteries as well as the main artery. Causes of heart disease in women are diabetes, smoking, inactivity, menopause, and mental stress or anxiety. Those who are at cardiovascular risk may see a decrease in mental function. Other factors such as insomnia, anxiety, and stress will increase the risk for heart disease or stroke. Your doctor might do a procedure using an EKG machine to check for signs of heart disease.

Symptoms of heart disease can mask other issues so it’s often overlooked until it’s too late. Some of the symptoms are tightness or pressure in the chest area, jaw pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness. Because these symptoms are not often associated with a heart attack, by the time it is addressed, heart damage has already occurred. Most often, heart issues occur during sleep or rest. Chest pain is not often a symptom in women. These “silent heart attacks” leave scarring and damage to the heart. This will result in congestive heart failure.

Treatment of heart diseases in women usually begins with lifestyle changes and medication. Surgical intervention may be necessary in some cases. Common surgical procedures are angioplasty, stenting, and coronary bypass.

Prevention and education about heart disease are key in combatting this disease in women. The more you know about heart disease, the better the chances of beating it. Prevention starts by knowing the risk factors. Listen to your body and keeping a check on blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Women should avoid smoking and develop a good nutrition plan with a daily intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts or seeds. Part of the healthy diet includes lowering sodium and sugar intake, avoid eating processed meats and saturated fats.

Research has been proven to show that exercise decreases the chances of heart disease in men and women. Exercise will help lower weight and lower cholesterol levels, which are both risk factors for heart disease. For women, maintain a healthy weight with a BMI (body mass index), level of 25 or lower. Also, losing weight and decreasing waist measurement of 35 inches or less, will help lower the risk of developing heart issues.

Women and men should set goals to exercise for at least 150 minutes per week. Beginning an exercise program that consists of strength training and aerobics is essential. Strength training will lower cholesterol levels and should be performed at least 2 times a week. This strength training can consist of lifting weights, push-ups or squats. Aerobic exercise will burn fat and improve circulation. This should be performed at for at least 30 minutes per day and 5 days a week. Aerobic activity can include walking, swimming, jogging or hiking. Any exercise that will get the heart pumping will help get you back in working order. Flexibility or stretching exercises will help avoid injuries and will make exercising easier to perform and less painful.

Heart disease, while it can be fatal, it can be prevented. Start evaluating the risk factors and work on improving and prolonging your life. Look online for information about eliminating your risks for heart disease. A positive attitude will definitely help accomplish these tasks. Seek the guidance of your physician and support groups for information to educate yourself about heart disease. Working on preventing heart disease doesn’t just benefit you, but the ones you love. Prevention is the key to combatting and eliminating this disease.