American humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “I don’t think women outlive men, doctor. It only seems longer.” Unfortunately for females, the statistics regarding heart disease are anything but funny. February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on the serious statistics of cardiovascular disease. Women and heart disease deserve our special attention.
Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease and stroke. One in three women will die of heart disease or stroke; one woman every minute. More women than men die from their first heart attack. Ninety percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, and 80 percent of their heart events or stroke could have been prevented. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among African-American women, killing almost 50,000 each year.
The first step women can take is to learn their risk factors for heart disease. We cannot change our family history, age or gender, but we can improve our nutrition, weight and exercise habits. We can be screened for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes and take steps to control abnormal findings.
Second, learn the symptoms of heart disease. Women often have different warning signs than men. While men typically have chest pain, women may have dizziness, nausea or increasing fatigue. Pain may be in the back, shoulder, arms or right side of chest. Some have throat pain or jaw pain.
Lastly, be proactive and assess your risk, understand the symptoms, and connect with your Prisma Health provider for any follow up. Start by calling (864) 455-6977 to make an appointment for an early-detection screening at our new Women’s Heart Center. Attack heart disease before it attacks you!
Lisa McNally, RN, BSN, ACSM, is a certified exercise physiologist with the HeartLife program at Prisma Health’ss Oconee Memorial Hospital.