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Myths and facts about women and heart disease

Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death among women. Unfortunately, many women remain unaware of its prevalence, risk factors, and treatment. What’s more, many dangerous misconceptions float, putting women’s lives at risk.

Many women have some risk factor – diabetes, smoking, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure – but remain misinformed of their odds of contracting heart disease and its dangers. The truth is, heart disease spares no one. Because your health is a non-negotiable, it can literally save your life to stay aware of the facts surrounding heart attacks. Let us look at some common myths and facts surrounding this killer disease.

Myth: Heart disease only affects women after menopause

Fact: It is true that estrogen and progesterone offer some protection against the disease, an advantage that starts to wane off around menopause. However, women of all ages can be at risk for developing this condition, despite menopausal women being at a higher risk. Fortunately, women can increase their awareness surrounding heart problems during the time of pregnancy. Women that develop conditions such as gestational diabetes that raise their risk for heart disease can proactively make lifestyle changes to prevent the condition. Additionally, women should also see a doctor at the time of menopause and discuss the risks. To stay completely safe and identify issues early on, have regular blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI checks, irrespective of your age.

Myth: Heart attack symptoms are common for women and men

Fact: While classic attack symptoms like chest, arm, jaw pain are common in both men and women, other subtler signs like fatigue and breathlessness are more likely to occur in women. Many women are known to die suddenly of heart disease without showing any symptoms!

Women tend to have milder symptoms such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Sudden dizziness
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sleep disturbances

In fact, researchers have found that women often ascribe these symptoms to causes like their age and busy work schedules, thus not seeking treatment for a heart blockage and assuming the cause less serious.

If you are experiencing an unusual change in yourself, and feel a lack of energy or breath, it could point to heart trouble. If you notice any strange symptoms, schedule a check-up immediately.

Myth: Only men have to worry about heart disease

Fact: It is true that gender differences have a role to play in heart disease. Female hormones also protect women from heart disease to some extent, but this protection decreases around menopause.

While is it true that more men die of heart disease, their death rate has steadily declined during the past couple of decades. Thus, women should look out as much and stay aware of the risk factors for developing this condition.

Myth: Heart disease does not affect active women

Fact: Even if you religiously work out every day, your risk for heart disease isn’t eliminated. Other factors like cholesterol, smoking, family history, diet, etc. can counterbalance the positive effects of exercise. Despite being thin, some women may have high cholesterol. Thus, exercise reduces the risk of heart disease but does not make women risk-free. You can lower your risk of heart disease by having plenty of heart-healthy foods and maintaining a healthy weight.

Myth: If you do not have a family history, you do not have to worry about it

Fact: Even without a family history, many women have heart issues. While a family history is a risk factor, so are others – smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, physical inactivity, etc. Moreover, some conditions that only or primarily affect women can also contribute – menopause, gestational diabetes, autoimmune diseases such as lupus, etc.

Myth: If you have a family history, you will get heart disease

Fact: Fortunately, this is a myth, despite women with family history being at a higher risk. If you are aware of the risk factors and lead a healthy lifestyle involving proper diet and exercise, you can reduce your risk of getting a heart attack, despite having a family history.

Myth: Women are more likely to survive heart attacks

Fact: Heart attacks are not always fatal. However, it is proven that young women are more likely to die than men are after a heart attack. One big reason is that women are less likely to receive proper post-attack treatment to prevent further attacks. If you have experienced a heart attack, discuss proper follow-up care with your doctor.

The more you know about your heart and its workings, the better you can take care of it. Irrespective of your age, look out for warning signs of heart trouble. More importantly, lead an active and healthy lifestyle to reduce the effect of risk factors, if you happen to have any.

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