Plenty has been written about the facts and figures pertaining to heart disease. Unfortunately, the majority of studies look at populations of men, not women. A reorientation is taking place in the medical media, which means many professionals are focusing on how heart disease affects women.
For women who wonder about their overall health, the key data falls into four basic categories: essential facts about heart disease in women, symptoms that everyone should recognize, the main risk factors for women, and information about how to avoid the disease in the first place.
Heart Disease Data for Women
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), women and men have about the same rate of death from heart disease. This goes against the prevailing (and incorrect) idea that heart disease is primarily a “male problem.” This misconception probably arises from the fact that men have more heart attacks than women, and have them at a younger age.
It’s also a fact that women live longer than men, and thus have more years in which to acquire all sorts of diseases, including heart disease.
Even so, more than half of all women in the U.S. are unaware that heart disease rates are essentially the same for both sexes. About 300,000 women die from heart disease every year in the U.S.
Know the “Big 4” Symptoms
The acronym FASA is a good way to remember the four typical symptoms of heart disease, a malady that often goes undetected until at least one of the major symptoms appears. The four are “Failure” (heart failure), Arrhythmia, Stroke, and “Attack” (as in “heart attack”).
Learn the 8 Primary Risk Factors
Even though at least half of all U.S. adults has at least one of the top-3 heart disease risk factors, few know what to look for. In addition to these three, which are high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol, and smoking, there are five other factors that often play a role in women’s heart disease.
Medical professionals use the acronym POPED to remember these five: Poor diet, Obesity, Physical inactivity, Excessive use of alcoholic beverages, and Diabetes.
What You Can Do Right Now to Avoid Heart Disease
It’s good to know women’s heart disease facts and risk factors, but what about taking action to prevent the problem? The CDC’s experts list several major areas where women should pay attention in order to avoid getting a diseased heart.
Diabetes : Just having diabetes is not a huge risk factor, but having uncontrolled diabetes is. Women can be tested to see whether they have early stage diabetes and take action to control it with treatment and medication.
Food: Making smart food choices can go a long way toward reducing weight, helping to control diabetes and building a stronger immune system. All those food-related actions can reduce a woman’s chances of getting heart disease.
Alcohol and Smoking: Keeping alcohol intake to moderate levels and quitting smoking are two things that anyone can do to lower their heart disease risk.
Stress and Blood Pressure: Lower the overall level of daily stress and making sure to get blood pressure numbers into the “safe zone” are two more actions that any woman can take to minimize the risk of acquiring heart disease.
Being smart about your heart pays very large dividends in terms of life expectancy and general well-being. Women should educate themselves about symptoms, risk factors and strategies for avoiding heart disease. Of course, the first part of any effective plan is speaking with a health care professional. Heart disease can be defeated as long as women stay on top of the latest research and work to reduce their own risk factors.
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