Heart disease is a general term that describes a variety of heart ailments, the most common of which is coronary heart disease. Other types of heart disease include cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and stroke.
While most heart-related problems are preventable and/or treatable, heart disease is unfortunately the No. 1 killer of men and women worldwide and in the United States. It is responsible for 40 percent of all the deaths in the United States, more than all forms of cancer combined.
Heart Disease and Women
The most common misconception about women and heart disease is that women are at less risk for heart disease than men. The reality is that heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women— nearly twice as many women in the United States die of heart disease and stroke than from all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. In addition, when women get heart disease it often acts quite differently than it does in men, so it is important that women understand the differences in risk factors, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
To learn the differences, talk with your health care provider and read more at the American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” website and at WomenHeart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
There are two types of risk factors for heart disease: risks that are beyond your control and risks that you can do something about. The risks that you can’t control are family history, race/ethnicity and age. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to take action on the six major causes of heart disease:
- Cigarette and tobacco smoke
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Overweight or obesity
Nine out of 10 heart disease patients have at least one risk factor—this means that even just one risk factor will raise your chances of having heart-related problems, and the more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular diseases.
How to Live a More Heart Healthy Life
If you are at risk for heart disease or have been diagnosed with heart disease, there are lots of simple ways to protect your heart through healthy lifestyle choices and diet and exercise. The following are recommendations for preventing heart disease from the American Heart Association:
- Eat Heart Healthy foods low in saturated fat and trans fats
- Exercise Regularly
- Lose Weight
- Manage Your Stress Levels
- Quit Smoking
In addition, the key to early detection is to get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels screened regularly. Recommendations on frequency vary based on your age and risk factors. Ask your doctor or go to http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3046593 to see what is right for you.
How CVMC Can Help You
CVMC has many resources available to help you understand your specific risk factors, symptoms and treatment options, as well as help living a healthier lifestyle.
- Talk about your concerns with your primary care doctor, or use our “Find-A-Doctor” database to find a physician close to you.
- Make an appointment with one of our educators in Outpatient Health Education to get the help you need to eat healthy, lose weight, quit smoking, and/or manage your diabetes.
- Explore the information on Diabetes, Nutrition, Obesity and Tobacco Cessation on our website.
- Find out more about how our Cardiac Rehab program can help you recover from a heart attack, heart surgery, or coronary artery stenting.
American Heart Association
American Heart Association – Go Red for Women
WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease