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Friday, December 6, 2013
When you think of a disease that may result in death in women, breast, ovarian, or cervical cancer might come to mind. However, coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States and is responsible for 1 in every 3 female deaths. The older a woman gets, the more likely she is to develop heart and vascular disease and to die from that disease.
Heart (cardiovascular) disease can lead to a heart attack or stroke, which may be experienced differently in men and women. While the most well-known symptoms include chest or arm pain, shortness of breath, dizziness, and nausea, women often have few, different, or no symptoms. Or they may experience vague symptoms such as:
Women are less likely than men to survive a heart attack, perhaps because they either have few or seemingly minor symptoms or fail to recognize the seriousness of the symptoms, and they delay seeking treatment.
Do not ignore symptoms that you may deem insignificant if they feel unusual to you.
Women over age 55 and those with a close family member with heart disease are at the greatest risk. However, preventive measures are lifelong practices and it is never too early to practice heart-healthy habits. A wide range of factors can contribute to the development of heart disease; fortunately, many can be controlled or monitored and there are preventive steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing this disease:
Taking birth control pills can increase the risk of heart disease among some women; particularly those with other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. Check with your doctor to see if you personally might be at greater risk for a heart attack if you take birth control pills.
Aspirin may help prevent heart attacks and may be of particular help to women at high risk, such as those who have already had a heart attack. Aspirin can have side effects and also may not be compatible with many other medications. Only take a daily aspirin after consulting with your doctor to be sure it is safe for you.
This article is a NetWellness exclusive.
Last Reviewed: Feb 19, 2013
Charles A Bush, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine
Director of Health Sciences Administration
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University