According to Go Red for Women and the American Heart Association, heart disease kills about one woman every minute. It's the No. 1 killer of women in America, accounting for one out of every three deaths each year.
While men and women are at risk for heart disease, women often don't realize the symptoms of poor heart health until it is too late and a heart attacks occurs, resulting in permanent heart damage.
Women often complain of atypical symptoms while men experience typical symptoms. Typical symptoms include chest pressure radiating to the left arm, nausea, cold sweats or shortness of breath. Atypical symptoms may be only shortness of breath, fatigue, reduced exertion tolerance and unexplained exhaustion. Because these symptoms are nonspecific, diagnosis of heart disease in women is often delayed.
Unfortunately, as heart disease diagnosis is delayed, it is more advanced and is more difficult to treat resulting in a more challenging and less rewarding recovery. By the time most women are diagnosed with heart disease, typically later in life, they have already experienced a number of years of concurring diseases such as uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes and a decline in the function of multiple organs.
The most important thing that women can do to affect their heart health is to know their cardiac risk factors. Risk factors include: family history of premature heart disease, stroke, diabetes, tobacco use, hyperlipidemia, hypertension and sedentary lifestyle. Cardiac prevention is recognizing these risk factors or even the potential for risk factors to develop so early intervention can halt cardiac disease progression.
Physical activity and good eating habits also are a to preventing heart disease.
Develop heart-healthy habits early. Exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Get regular physicals exams and notify your physician of any new symptoms no matter how unusual they seem.
Dr. Suzanne Michelle Morton is a cardiologist with KentuckyOne Cardiology Associates.