Nearly every minute, a woman dies from heart disease in the United States – it is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
When it comes to heart disease, women experience unique causes, symptoms and outcomes compared to men.
In addition, certain conditions appear to increase heart disease risk in women, including pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, gestational diabetes, migraine headaches with aura, early onset menopause and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Researchers say more work needs to be done. Here’s why:
Women are more likely to die from heart disease than men, according to the AHA.
Despite outreach efforts, a Women’s Heart Alliance survey of more than 1,000 women between 25 and 60 years of age found that 45 percent of women still don’t know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
Women are less inclined to call 911 when they believe they may be experiencing heart attack symptoms.
Cardiovascular disease complicates up to four percent of pregnancies, and that number has been increasing.
Women’s heart attack symptoms are often different from men’s. They may experience shortness of breath, nausea, palpitations, jaw discomfort or overwhelming fatigue, according to the AHA.
Women are less likely to be referred for cardiac rehab after a heart attack.
Women’s heart disease is under-researched: only 35 percent of participants in clinical trials of cardiovascular disease are women, and just 31 percent of the studies report outcomes by gender.
Pre-eclampsia is an independent predictor of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Women who have had pre-eclampsia should be mindful of having their blood pressure, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked annually.
Women are less likely to receive bystander CPR in public than men (45 percent in men versus 39 percent in women). Learning Hands-Only CPR can help save a life.
Recent blood pressure guidelines from the American College of Cardiology recommend all people to have a blood pressure target of 120/80 or lower. Additionally, after the age of 65, hypertension (high blood pressure) is more common in women.
Stay up-to-date on your annual physical and have your doctor check your blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors.