Did you know that heart disease accounts for a third of all deaths in women across the world? While you may associate heart attacks with men, the female population is under significant risk as well. According to the Women’s Heart Foundation, approximately 267,000 women die from heart attacks each year in the United States. That’s six times the death rate for breast cancer!
Now that you’ve got heart disease on your radar as a woman, you’ll also need to understand that there are risk factors and symptoms that are specific to your gender. Heart disease doesn’t always look the same in women as it does in men. Do you know what to watch out for?
A Women’s Heart Compared to a Man’s Heart
Women and men have different hearts – and we aren’t just talking about the level of compassion. First, a woman’s heart is smaller. It also distributes plaque differently. For example, the male heart distributes plaque in clumps whereas a female heart distributes more evenly throughout the artery walls. Why does this matter? This can make cardiovascular blood flow appear “normal” on x-rays or scans even though there is a dangerous level of plaque within the heart.
Female Risk Factors
Women are subject to specific risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension and obesity. In fact, women who smoke are at risk for having a heart attack 19 years earlier than non-smoking women, and women with diabetes have more than double the risk of heart attack than non-diabetic women.
Sadly, heart disease is now on the rise in younger women. 3 out of 10 women with heart attacks are under the age of 55! This may be due to the fact that younger women are not in tune with their health and risk factors at an earlier stage of life. Women also tend to wait longer than men to see a doctor when heart attack symptoms develop.
Preventing Heart Disease
Here’s a positive statistic: heart disease is 80 percent preventable! Regardless of your age as a woman, make the effort to establish heart healthy habits such as exercising, lowering salt intake and avoiding smoking and excess alcohol. Most importantly, see your primary care physician for regular checkups. At the office of Brent Michael MD, we do everything we can to help both male and female patients avoid the devastating effects of heart disease. Call our Santa Monica clinic today to schedule your heart check!