Become aware of the prevalence of heart disease in women

Samantha Carrillo, Assistant Opinion Editor

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. It accounts for one in every four female deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

As a college student outside of the age range most affected by heart disease, I didn’t spend much of my time worrying about it before researching this topic. However, the condition is far more prevalent than I ever imagined.

Since writing this article, I now realize how important it is for everyone to have at least a basic understanding of heart disease, especially since symptoms are not always obvious. Some women may have no symptoms at all. Others experience angina – dull, heavy to sharp chest pain or discomfort, including pain in the neck/jaw/throat, upper abdomen and back. All of which can occur during rest, physical activity or intense stress. Unfortunately, heart disease is often undiagnosed until a woman experiences symptoms resembling those of a heart attack, heart failure, an arrhythmia or stroke symptoms.

Heart attack symptoms in women can be different than that of men and even misinterpreted by some physicians. These symptoms are often chest pain/discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue and shortness of breath. It’s heartbreaking to realize the severity of the situation and exactly how disproportionately women are affected by cardiovascular diseases. According to the Go Red for Women campaign, women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men and are less likely to survive their first heart attack.

To further prevent ourselves, our loved ones and our role models from an unexpected battle with heart disease, it’s important we understand what we can do. First, getting one’s blood pressure checked is helpful as uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease.  Importantly, high blood pressure has no symptoms. It is also essential to make better lifestyle choices such as quitting smoking, eating healthier and limiting alcohol intake. Making these changes and being aware of common stroke and heart disease symptoms is essential in improving, not only external health, but also quality of life.

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