Women Need to Take Care Of Their Hearts at Every Age

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women and heart disease
Ewa Gross, MD, PhD

When you think of someone having a heart attack, it’s very likely that an older man comes to mind. The reality, however, is that heart disease continues to be the most common cause of death among women. And, according to new research, younger women in the United States are suffering heart attacks at a higher rate today compared with 20 years ago, reports the journal Circulation.

Heart Disease Risk Factors May Have Role

The reason for the increase in heart attacks among women younger than 55 isn’t exactly known. But researchers suggest that rising rates of heart disease risk factors – including high blood pressure and diabetes – among this population likely play a role.

Despite the disappointing news for women’s heart health, there’s a lot you can do to safeguard your ticker at any age. Ewa Gross, MD, PhD, Director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Center at UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute, recommends:

  • Eat a healthy diet with foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, fish and low-fat dairy products.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking,
    each week and do two or more days of muscle-strengthening exercises.
  • Don’t smoke; quit smoking if you do.

“Be sure to visit your health care provider regularly for wellness exams,” Dr. Gross says.

Women’s Warning Signs

“Keep in mind that heart attack symptoms can be different for women than they are for men,” Dr. Gross says. For instance, in addition to chest pain, women are more likely to experience at least one of these other symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Back or jaw pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Heavy pressure on the chest
  • Cold sweats (unrelated to menopause)
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Sudden fatigue

If you notice any of these heart attack signs, call 9-1-1 and get to an emergency room right away.

Related links

To learn more about cardiovascular disease in women or connect with a dedicated provider at University Hospitals Women’s Cardiovascular Center, visit UHhospitals.org/HerHeart or call 440-732-0015.

UH Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute is proud to be the local presenting sponsor of the American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign.

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