Women's Heart Disease
What do you picture when you think of a heart attack? Perhaps its the “Hollywood Heart Attack” scenario, whereby someone clutches his chest in pain and collapses to the floor. Whatever your picture, most people tend to see the victim of the heart attack with one common factor the victim is usually male. And this is where the problem lies.
Heart disease is the #1 killer of American women. In fact, heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases kill more women than the next five causes of death combined. Yet, the American Heart Association reports that more than 90 percent of primary care physicians are unaware that heart disease kills more women than men. Women comprise only 25 percent of participants in heart-related research studies, even though they are at greater risk for fatality from heart disease.
Fortunately, women around the country are beginning to unite in the effort to educate themselves about heart disease. Here are some suggestions to join the fight against womens heart disease.
1. Learn the “atypical” symptoms of heart attacks. While men tend to experience traditional chest pains, heart attack signs for women are distinctly different. The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease reports that 43 percent of women who have suffered heart attacks did not experience any type of chest pain or pressure. Instead, womens symptoms tend to include back, neck, or jaw pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, and indigestion.
2. Look for pre-heart attack symptoms. Prodromal (pre-heart attack) symptoms can occur anywhere from one week to six months prior to a heart attack. These signs include sleep disturbance, shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, indigestion, anxiety, and pains in the shoulder blades, upper back, or chest. Take these signs seriously and schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.
3. Dont delay action. If you suspect that you or someone else is in the early stages of a heart attack, then take action immediately. Many of the lifesaving treatments, including angioplasty and medications, are most effective when taken at the beginning of a heart attack.
4. Get involved. The bi-partisan HEART for Women Act is awaiting approval in Congress. Strongly supported by the American Heart Association, this act funds education for health care professionals about caring for women with cardiovascular disease. It also initiates gender-specific research studies and provides screening for low-income women. Contact the American Heart Association for details on the pending law.