Why Women Should be Thinking About Their Hearts - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on January 26, 2016

Why Women Should be Thinking About Their Hearts

Crozer-Keystone Health SystemMedia Contact:
Mary Wascavage
(610) 284-8619

The facts surrounding heart disease and women are staggering: Heart disease is the number one killer of women.

“Heart disease actually kills more women than breast cancer,” said Kim Campbell, M.D., a cardiologist at Crozer-Keystone Health System. “Over 6 million women in the United States are living with cardiovascular disease.”

And each year, 435,000 women suffer a heart attack. Part of the reason heart disease is particularly threatening to women is that women’s symptoms are quite different from men’s symptoms, and that creates a misunderstanding.

According to the American Heart Association, 64 percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. However, most people believe the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain, but that’s not typical for women.

Instead, women are more likely to experience nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, extreme fatigue, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, and pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen.

Knowing and being able to identify signals of heart disease is only part of what women need in their fight against it – they also need to know their risk factors.

“Women's risk of heart disease is lower before they go through menopause. Estrogen tends to have a protective effect on women's hearts and the vascular system,” Dr. Campbell explained. “Once they go through menopause, they lose the protection of estrogen and their risk of heart disease starts to rise. So when they get through menopause, it's important for them to know their risk factors.”

The big five heart disease risk factors for women are:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking

“The great thing about those five risk factors is that they’re modifiable – you can stop smoking, you can treat your blood pressure, you can treat your cholesterol, and diet and exercise to lose weight,” Dr. Campbell said.

In order to avoid ever having a heart attack, it’s important to treat high blood pressure aggressively and get cholesterol numbers down into a healthy range – this can help prevent further development of cardiovascular disease or worsening of plaque in arteries.

“A healthy lifestyle, eating right, exercising – all of those are a big component of treating cardiovascular disease aggressively in women,” Dr. Campbell said.

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