Many young women between the ages of 30 and 54 don’t believe that they are a risk for a heart attack — and don’t know the signs of a heart attack. However, new research from Yale University, young women are more likely to die from a heart attack than older women or men , and that young women who do have heart attacks are much sicker than other age groups.
Why are women so much more likely to die than men are? Researchers believe that much of the problem has to do with what we think we know about heart attacks. To most people, the image of having a heart attack is usually that of a middle-aged or older man, suddenly clutching his chest and falling to the ground. While that does happen in some cases, the signs of a heart attack in women are often much more subtle, and often mimic other diseases. A woman who goes to the emergency room complaining of shortness of breath and back pain, for example, is not likely to be immediately diagnosed with a heart attack, especially if she is under age 50.
Except that a woman who arrives at the ER with those symptoms could very well be having those symptoms, and many doctors are concerned that women themselves are not aware of the signs of a heart attack and may wait until it is too late to get help. And since most women think that heart attacks don’t happen in their 30s and 40s, the problem is only growing.
Women and Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one killer of women of all ages, surpassing both breast cancer and lung disease. Approximately 35 percent of all women — about 432,000 — die from some form of cardiovascular disease every year, with almost half of those deaths due to heart attacks. Heart disease strikes women from all races about equally, but women with diabetes, or who are obese and/or sedentary have a far greater likelihood of some type of cardiovascular disease.
Yet given the risks, many women do not understand their own risks and what it means to have cardiovascular disease. According to researchers, while most women are aware that heart health is a major concern, especially given that 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor, most do not understand their own risk factors. For example, in one survey, more than half of women did not know the recommended sodium daily sodium intake, and 68 percent had no idea what their target cholesterol numbers should be.
Another issue? Most women are not aware of the signs of a heart attack. They think they know, but most do not realize that they are different from the signs in men. And it’s this gap in knowledge that is contributing to the rising number of heart attack deaths.
Are You Having a Heart Attack?
So how do you know if you are having a heart attack? The number one sign is crushing chest pain — often described as feeling as if an elephant is sitting on your chest — but it’s important to note that almost 20 percent of women who have had heart attacks did not have any chest pain at all.
Therefore, it’s important to know the other signs of a heart attack, including:
Young women often have a tendency to write off these symptoms, or attempt to explain them as other ailments; they may attribute their fatigue to burning the candle at both ends, and their pain to a gym injury. However, if you experience any of these symptoms, especially more than one at a time, it’s important to get to a doctor. Studies show that the sooner that heart attacks are treated, the better the outcome, so it’s important to be treated as soon as possible.
Caring for Heart Health
Of course, it’s best to avoid a heart attack altogether, so caring for your heart is important whether you are 20 or 50. Talk with your doctor about our risk factors and know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and take medication if necessary to keep your heart healthy and risk factors in check. Shopping on a site like Canada Drug Pharmacy can help save you money and make it more convenient to fill your prescriptions.
In addition to medication, maintain a heart healthy diet, get plenty of exercise, keep your stress in check and focus on living a heart healthy lifestyle. Even if you do not have major heart problems in your 30s, the habits you develop today will keep your ticker in shape well into your golden years.