February is American Heart Month! A study done in 2020 by the American Heart Association (AHA) found that women are found to be at a higher risk for heart failure and heart attack death than men. Why is this? Let’s dive into heart health for women.
Women’s heart health
To start, women are more prone to mental health issues like depression and stress. They are also prone to increased hypertension during menopause and high testosterone levels prior to menopause, says Johns Hopkins Medicine. Most importantly, women have a lower risk factor awareness than men. This means they are more likely to brush off symptoms and move on without getting checked out.
Another reason women have a higher risk of death from heart attacks is that women often experience different symptoms. Mayo Clinic says that unlike men, women sometimes don’t have the stereotypical chest pain when having a heart attack. In fact, they’re more likely to have symptoms normally unrelated to chest pain when having a heart attack. Symptoms like neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or upper abdomen pain are things to look out for. Also watch out for with shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, pain in one or both arms, sweating, heartburn and more.
Don’t ignore these symptoms
The issue with these symptoms is that they are often overlooked because of the faint feeling they hold. Why? Because most women have blocked arteries, both main and small, that feed blood to the heart. Compared with men, women tend to have their symptoms when resting or asleep; and the heart attack can be triggered by emotional stress.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, responsible for one out of every five female deaths in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Since the warning signs are not as prominent in women as they are in men, it’s important to get your heart screened every three to five years for signs of heart disease, according to Cardio Institute of the South. By age 40, all women should have undergone routine screenings for heart issues – even if their family has no history of heart ailments.
So, to be on the safe side, make an appointment and have your heart screened in honor of Heart Month.