If you’ve been thinking heart disease is mainly a manly thing, then here is some news that may jolt you. The rate of heart disease among U.S. women is not only higher than among men, it is also more likely to go undiagnosed until later stages of the illness — and sometimes too late.

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among American women, killing more than a third of those who die annually. But because attention and research over many years has focused large on male heart problems, women have been historically under-diagnosed and treated for cardiovascular disease.

But there is good news: The focus on research for women’s heart health is changing, and now many health agencies are working hard to get the word out regarding heart disease symptoms and risk factors for women.

According to the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, 42.7 million women in America are living with some form of cardiovascular disease, including 7.5 million women suffering from coronary heart disease.

More women than men die of cardiovascular disease each year — 26 percent of women will die within one year of a recognized first heart attack, compared to 19 percent of men. However, women are still less likely than men to receive appropriate treatment, the coalition states.

So what can we do? Women (and those who love them) who are armed with information on the causes and symptoms of heart disease have the opportunity to ask questions of their health care professionals and make healthy lifestyle choices that can significantly cut down their health risks.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, have a conversation with your health care provider about heart disease:

  • Fatigue, even after resting all night
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Discomfort in the arm and chest
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Feeling scared or nervous
  • New or worsening headaches
  • Back pain

Signs of a heart attack in women can be the same as those commonly associated with male heart attacks, including arm, neck, back and jaw pain as well as nausea and shortness of breath. But women may also experience less common and more subtle signs, such as:

  • Heartburn
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling weak or tired
  • Coughing
  • Heart flutters
  • An achy, tight or “heavy” feeling in the chest or back
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat

The more heart attack signs that are present, the higher the likelihood of a heart problem. Do not wait longer than five minutes to see a doctor or call 911 in an emergency.

For more information on women and heart disease, visit womenshealth.gov or heart.orgSidebar

Get Involved:

Go Red for Women

Join Mercy’s team wherever you are, as we all “Go Red for Women” Friday, Feb. 2, and share your photos for a virtual show of support of women’s heart disease and stroke awareness. Wear red at your workplace, the gym, any place you will be going this Friday to help raise awareness!

Women, Wine and Wellness

Join Mercy’s Shaw Heart Team Wednesday, Feb. 28 at Foon Estate Winery from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friendships are part of your wellness so enjoy a glass of wine with your friends and learn more about keeping your heart – and the hearts of women you love – healthy. Wine available for purchase at $5 per glass; appetizers provided by CHI Mercy Health.

Connie Kinman is CHI Mercy Health’s director of Critical Care and the Shaw Heart and Vascular Center.

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Dan Bain is the health reporter for The News-Review. He previously worked at KPIC and 541 Radio.

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