Many people think of heart disease as something only men need to pay attention to. But it's also important to be well-informed about heart disease if you're a woman. It will help you know how to better prevent the disease, what to watch out for and what to do if you suspect you have a problem.
Here are some common myths about women and heart disease—and some real facts you need to know.
Myth: Heart disease is a man's disease.
Fact: Only 1 in 5 women believe heart disease is the biggest threat to their health, but the fact is cardiovascular disease affects more women than men and is the number one killer of women. In fact, it's more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. So women should pay attention to their hearts.
Myth: I practice healthy lifestyle habits, so I don't have to worry about my heart.
Fact: Healthy lifestyle habits are definitely good for your heart, but they do not guarantee you won't have heart disease. Even if you're at a healthy weight, are fit and follow a healthy diet, you may have risk factors like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. These conditions may be influenced by family history and other things that have nothing to do with how much you exercise or what you eat.
Myth: I'm too young to have a problem with my heart.
Fact: Although the risk of heart disease increases as you age, it can affect women (and men) of any age. Following a healthy lifestyle helps lower your risk, but some people are born with underlying conditions and risk factors that increase the risk of developing heart disease earlier in life. Other factors may also affect your chance of having heart issues at a younger age, such as smoking while on birth control pills.
Myth: I don't have any symptoms so everything must be good with my heart.
Fact: Many heart disease symptoms can be attributed to other conditions, especially because women's symptoms are often different than men's. Women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, dizziness/lightheadedness, fatigue, nausea/vomiting, or pain in the jaw, upper abdomen or lower chest. Some women don't experience any telltale signs. In fact, 64% of women who die suddenly of coronary disease had no previous symptoms, according to the American Heart Association®.
The bottom line? Speak to your primary care provider about your individual risk for heart disease and any diagnostic testing that may be in order. Learn more about women's heart health, including ways to lower your risk for heart disease here.
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Date Last Reviewed: December 13, 2021
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor