Research shows that the risk for heart-related death is on the rise for young adults ages 35-54, and the numbers are even more staggering for younger women. It is the number-one cause of death for both men and women in the United States. But according to the American Heart Association more women than men have died from heart-related causes since 1984.
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There are a number of theories as to why women, as opposed to men, are dying (more frequently) from cardiovascular-related illness, but largely it seems women simply ignore glaring signs and symptoms.
"Although there has been a general decline in deaths caused by heart disease, the last decade has seen a steady increase among younger women ages 35 to 44. Women account for more than 50 percent of deaths due to heart disease and 60 percent of stroke deaths in this country," says Dr. Holly Andersen, the director of education and outreach for the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Andersen offers the following advice to women on how to stay healthy, know their risk factors, and get the best medical treatments to take better care of their hearts.
• Enjoy yourself. Eat right, be active, attempt to get a good night's sleep, practice stress reduction, and enjoy fun times with friends. Women who regularly spend time with close friends have less heart disease.
• Know the warning signs of an attack. Women oftentimes do not experience the crushing chest pain that is so often associated with a heart attack. Women are more likely to experience atypical symptoms, which may include neck, shoulder or abdominal pain. Others may have nausea, vomiting, fatigue or shortness of breath, Most women experiencing a heart attack know that something is wrong.
• Test for the silent attack. Some women, however, feel no pain at all and experience what is known as a silent heart attack. Silent heart attacks lead to long-term shortage of blood and oxygen flow to the heart. If you are a post-menopausal woman and have at least three risk factors for heart disease, you should discuss with your doctor the tests available to determine if you have coronary artery disease.
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• Know your risk factors. Your risk of having a heart attack greatly increases if you are obese/overweight, a smoker, or have high cholesterol and/or diabetes. There are also several risk factors that are of particular importance to women including: smoking and/or the combination of smoking and birth control pills, and certain complications during pregnancy. Women who have preeclampsia, gestational diabetes or hypertenson are advised to aggressively manage all risk factors for heart disease.