Some may be surprised to learn that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. and that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). A lack of knowledge, as well as the common misconception that cardiovascular disease is mainly a “man’s disease,” are what make it so dangerous and deadly for women.
Founded in 2004, AHA’s Go Red for Women movement–symbolized by a red dress–seeks to change any misconceptions and raise awareness regarding the issue of women and heart disease. According to AHA, cardiovascular disease kills almost 500,000 American women per year, yet a large proportion of women don’t consider it a serious health threat.
Historically, heart disease research has focused on men, creating guidelines and treatments based on those studies; as a result, the view of the disease and risk is somewhat narrow and oversimplified. Working with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and other health organizations, AHA seeks to widen research to include women subjects, inform women about heart health, and provide educational programs for patients and tool kits for health care providers.
As part of its Go Red for Women initiative, AHA encourages healthy lifestyle habits such as:
- Don’t smoke
- Manage your blood sugar
- Keep your blood pressure in a normal range
- Lower your cholesterol
- Stay active
- Lose weight
- Eat healthy
Be sure to also understand your family medical history and get regular wellness checkups by a licensed doctor or osteopathic physician. Always verify the license of your doctor at the Medical Board of California’s website, www.mbc.ca.gov, or your osteopathic physician at the Osteopathic Medical Board of California’s website, www.ombc.ca.gov.
As far as symptoms of heart disease, although men and women can have similar symptoms such as chest pain, be aware there are also differences. For example, women are more likely than men to have “silent” heart attacks. Silent heart attacks have no symptoms or unrecognized symptoms, such as breaking out in a cold sweat or experiencing fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, or back, neck, jaw, or stomach discomfort. If you’re experiencing any of these issues, don’t ignore them and call 911 immediately.
To learn more about the Go Red for Women movement and about heart disease, including symptoms, risks, and prevention tips, visit www.goredforwomen.org.