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Feb. 3 is National Wear Red Day

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler

Feb. 3 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 risk factors, heart-attack symptoms, and prevention.

Without question, heart disease is no one’s friend. In fact, heart disease remains the number one cause of death worldwide and the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming some 610,000 American lives annually.

Heart disease, however, has increasingly set its sights on women. Consider these heart-stopping statistics:

  • Heart disease kills one woman every 80 seconds.
  • Heart disease takes the lives of more women then all cancers combined.
  • While one in 31 U.S. women dies from breast cancer annually, one in three succumbs to heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more American women than men have died each year from heart disease.
  • Some 43-million American women are affected by heart disease.
  • Fully 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • After surviving one heart attack, women have more repeat heart attacks than men.
  • 38% of women who suffer a heart attack die within one year, compared to only 24% of men.
  • Within the first few weeks of having a heart attack, women are twice as likely to die compared to men.
  • Despite all of the above, most American women are unaware that heart disease is their greatest health threat.

Risk Factors

While all women are susceptible to heart disease, some are at greater risk than others. For example:

  • Of African-American women ages 20 and older, nearly half have heart disease.
  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanic women.
  • Women who smoke risk having a heart attack 19 years earlier than non-smoking females.
  • Women with hypertension are at 3.5 times greater risk of developing coronary heart disease than females with normal blood pressure.
  • Women with diabetes have more than double the risk of having a heart attack than non-diabetic women.
  • If your father or brother had a heart attack before age 55, or if your mother or sister did before age 65, you are more likely to suffer from heart disease.
  • Women are more apt to get heart disease post-menopause, primarily due to a decrease in estrogen production.
  • Important risk factors that women can modify include: high blood pressure; high blood cholesterol; smoking; overweight; and physical inactivity.

Uniquely Female Heart-Attack Symptoms

Despite the high incidence of heart attacks among females, many women aren't aware that their symptoms often are quite different from those experienced by men. Classic symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • squeezing chest pain or pressure;
  • shortness of breath;
  • sweating;
  • pain spreading to shoulders, neck, or arms;
  • feeling of heartburn or indigestion (with or without nausea and vomiting);
  • sudden dizziness or brief loss of consciousness.

Heart-attack symptoms in women, however, often don't mirror these classic signs. In fact, women's primary heart-attack symptoms tend to include:

  • unusual fatigue;
  • shortness of breath, with or without chest pain;
  • abdominal discomfort;
  • nausea/vomiting;
  • discomfort/pain in the one or both arms, back, stomach, jaw, neck, or between shoulder blades;
  • sweating;
  • dizziness or lightheadedness.

Heading off Heart Disease

The ultimate goal, of course, is to prevent heart disease and heart attacks altogether. Toward that end, both men and women are urged to:

  • exercise 30 to 60 minutes on most days;
  • follow a low-fat, low-sodium diet, and fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables;
  • maintain a healthy weight;
  • drink in moderation, if at all;
  • don't smoke;
  • have your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels checked regularly;
  • request an electrocardiogram or exercise-stress test if you have a family history of heart disease, particularly in a relative prior to the age of 60.

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