Coronary heart disease, heart failure, and stroke are the top killers of women in America today. This statistic points out the importance of prevention and awareness—women must be able to identify the causes, and symptoms, of heart disease. Although most people believe they are familiar with the symptoms of cardiovascular disease, and would be able to identify if they were having a heart attack, many do not realize that there are significant differences in symptoms between men and women. The common stereotype of a heart attack, as seen in movies and TV, is extreme chest pain or pain going down the left arm. These symptoms, however, are common in men—not women. Women having a heart attack are likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, lightheadedness or fainting, and back or jaw pain. Moreover, many women who die from cardiovascular disease are asymptomatic. Studies show that women are less likely to undergo diagnostic testing, invasive testing, or aggressive early treatment for cardiovascular disease. In order to save lives, it is imperative that women and healthcare providers understand the risks and symptoms of heart disease for women. Below are some key facts every woman should know.
- Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women age 20 and over.
- More women die of heart disease than the next three causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer.
- One in three American women die of cardiovascular disease, compared to one in 30 women who die of breast cancer.
- Currently, some eight million women in the U.S. are living with heart disease, yet only one in six American women believes that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
- Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
- In women, heart disease is too often a silent killer – less than a third of women in a recent survey reported any early warning signs such as chest pain or discomfort before a heart attack, compared with most men.
- Only slightly more than half of women are likely to call 911 if experiencing symptoms. And yet, 79 percent of women said that they would call 911 if someone else was having a heart attack.
The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women is asking women to uncover the truth about heart disease and make ending it a reality. To learn more about other ways that you can get involved, visit GoRedForWomen.org, Facebook.com/GoRedForWomen, or call 1-888-MY-HEART.
Founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is leading the charge against the childhood obesity epidemic, a leading cause of future heart disease, by engaging directly with industry leaders, educators, parents, health care professionals and – most importantly – kids. Learn more about the Alliance at www.healthiergeneration.org.