Protecting Women's Hearts
When it comes to heart disease, men and women are not equal.
Daisy F. Lazarous, MD, director of the Women’s Cardiovascular Program at Adventist HealthCare, answers questions about women’s heart health.
Q: Are women at higher risk for heart disease than men?
Dr. Lazarous: Yes, in the United States, 1 in 4 women will die from heart disease each year. Heart attacks in younger women are on the rise and women are more likely to minimize their symptoms. Even now, only about 50% of all women know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, more than all cancers combined.
Q: What are the risk factors for women?
Dr. Lazarous: There are certain conditions that only affect women and increase the risk for heart disease. They include menopause, polycystic ovary syndrome, gestational diabetes and other pregnancy-related conditions such as preeclampsia, eclampsia and depression. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking history
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy diet
- Inflammatory disorders such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
Q: How are the symptoms of a heart attack different for women?
Dr. Lazarous: Both men and women experience chest pain. However, women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, shortness of breath and dizziness, as well as pain in the arms, jaw and abdomen.
Q: What can women do to protect themselves against heart disease?
Dr. Lazarous: Nearly all heart attacks and strokes are preventable by simple lifestyle modifications such as, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising more and eating a balanced diet. It is important that you understand your risk for early heart disease and do not delay care.