Heart disease in women is often times overlooked. Despite being regarded as a disease that mainly affects men, heart disease the number one killer in the United States, kills more women than men a year.
According to the CDC here are some facts on women and heart disease:
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing 289,758 women in 2013—that’s about 1 in every 4 female deaths.1
- Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.2
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.3
- About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of black women, and 5.6% of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.4
Knowing these facts, why are women still not getting tested?
Women Have Different Symptoms
Women will not always showcase the classic heart attack symptoms such as chest pain that are prevalent in men. Though typical heart attack symptoms can still affect women, many experience symptoms that are often disregarded, such as nausea and fatigue. Heart disease symptoms in women often show up 10 years laterin comparison to male counterparts.
Six symptoms common in women:
- Chest Pain and Discomfort
- Pain in arms, back, neck or jaw
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
Gender differences within Risk and Treatment
Doctor’s often do not recognize the different kinds of symptoms that may indicate heart disease in women and symptoms may be misdiagnosed. Cardiovascular disease may not be on the short list of symptoms they watch for while treating female patients. Increasing awareness of the risks of heart disease in women will help put heart conditions high on their list of probable diagnoses.
What can Women and Physicians do?
The best thing women can do is to mitigate risk factors, and notify physicians of any possible symptoms she may be experiencing. Being proactive about the heart health is also essential to preventative care. Women, particularly those over the age of 45 should start asking their doctors what can they do to motor their heart disease risks. There is value in early detection of heart disease and often times it can be reversed.