Awareness still lacking of seriousness of heart disease in women, cardiologist warns

February 4, 2013, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School

Although heart disease remains the No. 1 killer nationally for women-—responsible for one out of every three deaths—-many of today's women still underestimate the seriousness of the disease and their risks, says Liliana Cohen, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with The Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group.

"The latest statistics reveal that is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, killing one woman every minute. Yet, these same studies show that relatively few believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat," says Dr. Cohen, who also serves as Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey–Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and participating physician in its Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Services program. "The reality is that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. These misconceptions could be putting women's lives at risk every day."

"The symptom many women focus on is chest pain, but the reality is that women are also likely to experience other types of symptoms, including shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea or vomiting. This misperception may lead many women to ignore or minimize their symptoms and delay getting life-saving treatment," Dr. Cohen explains.

Other symptoms of a heart attack for both women and men include dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting; pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen; and .

"When in doubt, it is always best to seek medical assistance," says Dr. Cohen, who specializes in echocardiography, a technique that uses ultrasound to diagnose cardiovascular diseases.

Dr. Cohen also recommends that women take proactive steps to prevent or control conditions that may put them at risk. She advises:

  • Keep track of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If either or both are high, work with your physician to develop a strategy for controlling them. If you have diabetes, properly controlling it is critical to lowering your risk.
  • Exercise. It is extremely important to avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Ideally, you should aim for more than 30 minutes of exercise at least five times per week. That doesn't necessarily mean high-impact classes at the local gym; walking, gardening and other activities that keep you moving and active can also help.
  • Commit yourself to a healthy diet. Look for foods that are low in saturated fat and trans-fat, as well as those that are high in fiber. Whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables, and legumes like peas or beans will help round out a well-balanced diet, as will foods that are high in antioxidants.
  • Strive for a healthy weight. Being obese or overweight can increase your risk of heart disease significantly because it contributes to other risk factors like diabetes. Your physician can help you determine the ideal weight for your body type and age and provide suggestions on how to reach that goal.
  • Stop smoking. Smoking has been found to significantly increase risk for heart attacks, as well as your risk of dying if you have a heart attack.

Explore further: Many women having a heart attack don't have chest pain

Related Stories

Many women having a heart attack don't have chest pain

February 21, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Two out of five women having a heart attack do not experience chest pain, according to a new study.

Fighting heart disease in women

February 3, 2012
Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women, but 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. Although the majority of heart attacks occur in the ten years after menopause, the disease process starts much earlier. If ...

Heart disease, No. 1 killer, can sneak up on women

July 4, 2011
Heart disease can sneak up on women in ways that standard cardiac tests can miss. It's part of a puzzling gender gap: Women tend to have different heart attack symptoms than men. They're more likely to die in the year after ...

Recommended for you

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

Place of residence linked to heart failure risk

January 9, 2018
Location. Location. Location.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.