Myth:  Men die more often from heart attacks than women.  
Truth: Women die more often from heart attacks than men.  

It has always been the belief that more men die from heart attacks than women.  In fact, new studies show that women are more likely to die from heart disease than men – 1 in 4 women will suffer a fatal heart, which is more than all cancers combined. Due to this longtime misconception, women have been significantly understudied with only 38% of heart disease studies focusing on women.

The CDC reports that only half of all women will recognize a heart attack when it strikes. And what’s even more disturbing is that two-thirds of women are not even aware that they are suffering from a heart attack; several symptoms may seem benign in nature, such as dull chest pain, jaw pain and abdominal or back discomfort.

February is America Heart Month

What better time than now to take stock on your heart health. This is a good time to ask yourself the important questions as to whether you or your loved one(s) are at risk for suffering a heart attack. Do any of the following pertain to you and your family?

  • Strong family history – If your father suffered a heart attack under the age of 55 or your mother under the age of 65, you may be at a higher risk for heart disease.
  • Hypertension – Although this is associated more with men than women, it’s always a good idea for a woman to get tested to know this condition is present.
  • Diabetes – Because Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes are proven to wreak havoc on the cardiovascular system, there is also 2-4x greater chance of dying from heart disease with this condition.
  • Stress – As the body releases stress hormones during times of stress, these hormones can create inflammation, resulting in increased blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
  • Menopause – After a woman goes through menopause, there is a greater risk to suffer a heart attack due to the reduction in estrogen levels.

Heart Disease is not a death sentence

You can reduce your risk of heart disease, even with a family history if you pay close attention to factors that exacerbate this condition. They Include:

  • Get an annual check up from your doctor to make sure your good and bad cholesterols are at the proper levels, and that your blood pressure and heart rate is within normal range
  • Eat Healthy – limit fats and carbohydrates and remove saturated fats from your diet; substitute with healthy fats, such as olive oil, eat nuts, fish, legumes, and fruit lower in sugars
  • Remove excessive alcohol, all drugs, tobacco and binge eating
  • Educate yourself on the things you can do to live a healthier life
  • Exercise! Always check with your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen.

It’s probably one of the most important influencers for reducing your chances of suffering a heart attack and heart disease – maintaining a healthy lifestyle with an exercise regimen that you can live with will put you on the right track for a long healthy life.

Sources: CDC.org www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

By Bonnie Joffe for Volunteers in Medicine Clinic