This February, celebrate American Heart Month by learning how heart disease and heart attacks differ in men and women.
Contrary to popular belief, men and women do come from the same planet—but their heart disease risk factors and heart attack symptoms are often different. The differences for women can include:
- Women’s heart attacks can present with different symptoms. Women are likely to experience chest pain during a heart attack, just like men, but are also more likely to have atypical symptoms such as jaw pain, indigestion and shortness of breath.
- Women’s heart attacks are more likely to go unrecognized. While men and women can both have a silent heart attack—or a coronary blockage without obvious symptoms—women are at particular risk for dismissing or ignoring heart attack symptoms.
- Women are more likely to die from heart attacks. Approximately 38 percent of women will die within one year of a recognized heart attack (compared to roughly 25 percent of men). Women are also twice as likely as men to die within the first few weeks following a heart attack.
- Family planning can affect heart health. Certain birth control methods (including the birth control pill)—particularly combined with smoking—can increase blood pressure and lead to an elevated risk for heart problems. Blood pressure levels during pregnancy can also affect a woman’s risk for heart disease.
The best way to survive heart disease is to stop it before it starts. Talk with your physician about your personal risk factors—including birth control methods, lifestyle choices and family history—and what you can do to reduce your risk.
You can also urge the women in your life to understand the dangers of heart disease in women. Don your best crimson clothing on Feb. 6, National Wear Red Day, to help raise awareness about heart disease in women.
If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 right away. To find a cardiologist with Parkridge Medical Center, visit parkridgemedicalcenter.com and click “Find a Doctor.”