Women and Heart Disease: The Great Equalizer
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) remains the leading killer of women in the
U.S. and the world. CVD kills nearly 500,000 U.S. women each year,
claiming more lives than the next seven causes of death combined,
including cancer, according to American Heart Association statistics.
that heart disease is the leading killer of women was nearly twice as
high amongwhite women (55 percent) as among African-American (30
percent) and Hispanic (27 percent) women. Minority women face the
highest risk of dying from CVD.
percent of women spontaneously listed heart disease as women’s
leading cause of death, found the American Heart Association’s
first national survey in 1997, a figure that increased to 34 percent in
the 2000 survey. However, in 2003, that figure jumped to 46 percent, a
women have a good general knowledge of CVD risk factors, they often do
not knowtheir own risks. For instance, when asked whether a specific
activity could reduce the risk of getting heart disease, 90 to 100
percent of respondents recognized that exercise, losing weight,
quitting smoking, avoiding dietary cholesterol and reducing salt intake
are useful lifestyle changes.
some 70 percent did not know their own levels of low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), two components of
understanding of heart disease was high across racial and ethnic groups
in several areas. When asked as a true-false question, 95 percent of
women overall knew that heart disease develops gradually over many
years and can easily go undetected. Ninety-seven percent of white
women, 91 percent of African-American women, and 91 percent of Hispanic
women answered this question correctly.
than half of all women, 40 percent, consider themselves very well
informed or well informed about heart disease, a figure that is
unchanged since 2000. Those aged 25-34 were least likely to report
feeling very well/well informed (27 percent) and most likely to report
feeling "not at all informed" (22 percent).
Some practical heart disease actions for wellness managers:
Women may not
have classic heart attack symptoms. In women, a heart attack may reveal
itself through nausea, vomiting, tightness in the chest or shortness of
breath — signs that could be misinterpreted as indigestion.
generally more likely to experience pain localized just to the left of
the breastbone or in the entire upper chest. Others have pain to the
left shoulder and inside the left arm to the waist; a common
combination is pain in the mid-chest, neck and jaw.)
warning signs associated with chest pain are similar for men and women,
such as fatigue, pain at rest, shortness of breath and weakness.
Dizziness is the next most common symptom reported by women, whereas
men report arm pain.
women's chest pain is related to her heart, the pain tends to be more
vague than the type of chest pain men experience; back pain also is
twice as common for women as for men.
Women: Heed These First Signs of a Heart Attack
- Arm or
shoulder pain; jaw, neck or throat pain; toothache; pain in the back,
beneath the breastbone, or in the pit of the stomach.
- Back pain — it's twice as common for women as for male patients.
- Vague chest pains that come and go but fail to improve with rest.
- Loss of appetite and shortness of breath at night, which are significantly more common among women than among men.
- Combinations of these symptoms — heart attacks seldom strike different people in exactly the same way.
For more information, visit the American Heart Association's Web site at www.amhrt.org.