Written by Black Health Matters
Still think heart disease is a man’s disease? The reality is that heart disease is killing women, too. Here are the facts:
• Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American women age 25 and older.
• Every 90 seconds, a woman in this country suffers a heart attack.
• One in three women will die of heart disease.
In spite of these numbers, most women aren’t aware of the dangers of heart disease. They also don’t know what they can do to reduce their risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
Part of the problem is that the symptoms of a heart attack in women can be subtle. Though both men and women can experience chest pain, pressure or discomfort, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms that can easily be explained away as something else—dizziness, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.
In African-American women, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking and a family history of heart disease, all major risk factors for heart disease, are prevalent in greater numbers. We are also more likely to die of heart disease at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities. Throw in that we are less likely than white women to know heart disease is the leading cause of death, and we’re a walking high-risk billboard.
The good news, cardiologist Benita Burke, M.D., told the Valley Health (New Jersey) newsroom, is that quick treatment can save lives and prevent permanent damage to heart muscle. “Women tend to respond better to certain cardiac interventions than men,” she said, “but they are underrepresented, likely due to atypical symptoms and under referring.