The myths and facts about heart disease: what all women should know

The myths and facts about heart disease
Posted at 7:35 PM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 21:48:59-05

Do you know what causes cardiovascular disease in women? What about the survival rate? Or whether women of all ethnicities share the same risk?

The fact is, cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!

But it doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same in men. What’s more, these facts only begin to scratch the surface.

There are several misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk. Intermountain Healthcare and the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign are working to raise awareness about women and heart disease.

February is National Heart Awareness Month, a great time to assess your heart health. Intermountain Healthcare is the leader of advanced heart care in Utah and in the nation. During the month, Intermountain will be providing education and information on heart disease to help you stay as healthy as possible. Follow Intermountain’s social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for great info!

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Anyone, including children, can develop heart disease. It affects both men and women and afflicts people from all racial and ethnic groups. Because it affects such a large percentage of the population, it’s important that everyone knows facts about heart disease and signs and symptoms to look out for.

National Wear Red Day is the icon day of American Heart Month. On Friday, Feb. 5, wear red and raise awareness of women’s No. 1 killer – cardiovascular disease.

Cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 1 in 3 women – that's about one woman every 80 seconds. Together, we can change this because there is nothing women united with purpose cannot achieve.

There are lots of ways to be a part of Wear Red Day and American Heart Month, so encourage each person to join in and #GoRed.

“It’s a man’s disease.” “But I’m too young.” “Breast cancer is the real threat.” If you’ve heard or said any of this before, you’re not alone.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the real threat for women

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease is the cause of one out of every three deaths. That’s roughly one death each minute.

Myth: Heart disease is for older people

Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are fit

Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Myth: I don’t have any symptoms

Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they’re often misunderstood. Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, feeling lightheaded or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it

Fact: Although women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, there’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce it. Simply create an action plan to keep your heart healthy. Because of healthy choices and knowing the signs, more than 670,000 of women have been saved from heart disease, and 300 fewer are dying per day. What’s stopping you from taking action?