When you hear the phrase heart attack, chances are the image of a man clutching
his chest immediately springs to mind. In reality, however, that image
should feature a man
and a woman because heart disease is the leading cause of death for both genders.
As these statistics demonstrate, heart disease most definitely is not a
- Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause one in three women’s deaths
annually, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.
- One out of two women will develop heart disease.
- Each year, about 372,000 U.S. women aged 65 and older have a heart attack.
The average age for women to have a first heart attack is 70.
Women are more likely than men to die within a few weeks after having a
- Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
While heart disease strikes both sexes, a woman’s heart attack is
distinctly different. Knowing the signs could save your life.
Feb. 2 is National Wear Red Day – an annual American Heart Association initiative designed to shine
the spotlight on women and heart disease. ATRIO Health Plans supports
this effort and is working to increase awareness regarding women's
In men, symptoms of a heart attack are fairly straightforward:
- Chest pain or an intense or tight ache, fullness or squeezing in the chest
Discomfort in arms, back, neck, abdomen, or jaw;
- Shortness of breath;
- Profuse sweating for no apparent reason;
For women, symptoms of a heart attack often are more subtle compared to
men's symptoms. As a result, women frequently are unaware that what
they’re experiencing actually is a heart attack. Consequently, many
women simply don't seek medical attention for what potentially is
a life-threatening event.
If you're a woman, commit these heart-attack symptoms to memory and
take them seriously:
- Trouble sleeping;
Discomfort between the shoulder blades;
Pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in center of chest;
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
Shortness of breath;
Despite the fact that more than 80 percent of women age 40 to 70 are at
risk for heart disease, the field of cardiology generally doesn't
treat men and women equally. For example:
- Men are two-to-three times more likely than women to receive an implantable
defibrillator for the prevention of sudden cardiac death.
- Many research studies and clinical trials have been conducted with inadequate
numbers of women in the study population, representing just 38 percent
of participating subjects.
- The majority of cardiovascular clinical trials do not report sex-specific
results, making it difficult for researchers and clinicians to draw conclusions
about their effects on women.
In light of these disparities, women need to be heart smart as well as
fierce advocates for their own health.