Recent statistics show that heart attacks are more deadly for women than for men. More precisely, women are more likely than men to die within a year of having their first heart attack.
When we think of heart attack, too often people think of it as something that primarily affects men. The truth is women are just as likely to suffer a heart attack as men are. And, many times the signs are so subtle women might not even know they’re having one. Warning signs of a heart attack can actually be quite different for women.
While both men and women experience chest pain, women are somewhat more likely to experience other common symptoms, including shortness of breath; pain or discomfort in one or both arms, neck, back, jaw or stomach; nausea; light-headedness; or cold sweat. Because of the subtleness of the symptoms, women will often attribute them to something else like the flu or acid reflux or just ignore them all together.
The sobering fact comes from a first-ever scientific statement issued by the American Heart Association on women and heart disease. The report documents differences in symptoms and causes of heart attacks experienced by males and females that may contribute to women’s higher death rate. 26% of women die within a year of having their first heart attack, compared to 19% of men.
Another result of the study is that the treatment after a heart attack differs for men and women. Women are less likely to be prescribed medications known to prevent future heart attacks, the AHA declared. They’re also less likely than men to receive a recommendation for cardiac rehabilitation.
While the statistics are sobering, there is some good news. Many of the risk factors that lead to heart attack and heart disease can be controlled. Making healthy lifestyle changes is the perfect place to start. Quitting smoking, staying active and losing weight are immediate ways to reduce this threatening risk.
While people cannot control their family history, knowing there is such a risk should make them more vigilant about their heart health, especially if they are not feeling well.
However, there are signs that the gap is closing, researchers affirmed, noting that in recent years, heart-disease-related deaths for women have declined significantly. The experts’ final conclusion is that both medical communities and the general public need more education and awareness about heart disease risks for women.
Women definitely need to be aware of their symptoms and risks.
declared Laxmi Mehta, M.D., lead author of the AHA’s statement.
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