1. More women die from breast cancer each year than heart disease?

 2. If you don’t have chest pain, you don’t have a problem with your heart?

 3. Women who are smokers are more likely to develop heart disease than non-smokers?

 4. If you are on cholesterol medications, diet is not as important?

 5. Women who undergo angioplasty or bypass surgery are less likely to have complications than men?

 Answers at the end of the articleHeart disease is the leading cause of death in adult women. The symptoms of heart disease vary and in women are different than the “typical” symptoms found in men. Historically, it is not only women who misinterpret symptoms, underestimate their risk factors, and hesitate to seek attention. Multiple studies have shown that physicians also under-treat women and ignore their symptoms.  Women need to be educated about heart disease and must take an active role to ensure their heart health. Therefore, it is critical for all women patients and healthcare workers to understand that women DO develop heart disease even at young ages and should be treated with the same intensity and vigor as men. Concern for heart health is important for women of all ages. When we are in our 20s and 30s we tend to take our health for granted. It can be difficult to maintain healthy heart habits. We tend to become pre-occupied with career and /or family. The fact is, as we get older, it becomes harder to stay healthy. It is important to develop the building blocks for a healthy heart in our younger years. As we mature, it often seems as though there are even more people in our lives that depend on us. As women, we are usually good at taking care of others. But if we are not taking care of our heart, we won’t remain healthy to take care of our loved ones and enjoy the freedom that maturity offers. Even in our 40s, it’s not too late to break old habits and form new, heart healthy ones. The number of women who have heart attacks begins to increase dramatically after age 55, especially after menopause. Even so, it’s not too late to reduce your risk.  The great thing about being in our 50s  and beyond is that we’ve learned so much about life and we’ve begun to develop more confidence in ourselves. If you already have heart disease there is so much you can do to manage it. Our bodies may be changing, but we have the power to heal our hearts! What can you do to reduce your chances of heart disease and keep a healthy heart? Check your family history of heart disease. If you have a family history of heart disease, it is particularly important that you begin taking steps to remain healthy. Make sure to tell your physician about your family history. Just remember – even without a family history, it is possible to develop heart disease. Don’t smoke. Smoking seriously increases your risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer and many other diseases. Drink alcohol in moderation. Calories from alcohol can make you gain weight, increasing your risk. If you drink to excess, you can experience increased blood pressure, which can lead to increased risk of heart disease, heart failure, stroke and other alcohol related problems. Carefully choose your method of birth control. Some forms of oral contraceptives can increase your blood pressure. Make sure you explore all the potential side effects of these medications with your physician and have your blood pressure checked regularly. Review your blood test with your physician. Your doctor is there to help you understand your cholesterol, triglycerides, and other contributing factors to heart disease. Eat a “heart healthy” diet: See our tips in “Heart Healthy Eating.” Make time for physical activity: Do something you enjoy. Walk around the neighborhood, work out at home or join a gym.  Ask a girlfriend to join you! Reduce sodium: This will help prevent or control high blood pressure. Get regular check ups: It’s important to see your doctor once a year for a complete check up.  Know your numbers! Visit the American Heart Association to learn how to interpret your cholesterol, triglycerides and other factors affecting your heart: more about the signs and symptoms of heart disease in our other Vital Signs Articles.We can be heart healthy at any age! It’s never too late to start taking care of our heart!     Answers to TRUE or FALSE questions above:
1. False – heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the US.  
2. False – symptoms do not have to include chest pain
3. True – smoking significantly increases risk of all cardiovascular diseases
4. False – watching your diet is still important when on cholesterol lowering medicines
5. False – women are more likely to have complications than men