Heart disease is not the No. 1 health concern on many women’s minds. But it is the No. 1 killer.
According to the American Heart Association, it outranks all types of cancer combined.
“Women don’t take charge as much as men do when it comes to their heart,” said Dr. Lalitha Medepalli of the Northeast Georgia Heart Center. “Women tend to take care of everything but their heart. Compared to men, women exercise less and tend to be more obese than men of the same age range.”
As part of American Hearth Month and in order to raise awareness about heart disease in women, the state health department is asking Georgia residents to participate in National Wear Red Day on Friday.
According to the latest data from the heart association, 52.1 percent of cardiovascular disease deaths are linked to female patients.
“Women tend to take preventative measures less, but a woman’s heart itself is much smaller compared to a man’s and so are their arteries,” Medepalli said. “So a woman’s arteries can get clogged more quickly than a man’s, and women tend to have a higher susceptibility rate to the cardiovascular disease risk factors.”
Chest pains are often a warning sign of heart diseases, which include coronary heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure. But there are more subtle indicators, too.
“The quality of chest pains tend to be the same in men and women, but women tend to be affected by the more atypical (signs) more often,” Medepalli said. “More women than men tend to experience atypical symptoms like neck, shoulder or jaw discomfort. They may also feel anxious, weak or nauseous.
“These symptoms are neglected or attributed to other problems like obesity, and by the time a (female) patient presents their condition to a health care professional they have a more advanced case of disease.”
Late diagnosis is one of the reasons why there are more female deaths, Medepalli said.
“Women especially should keep a high alert for these symptoms,” she said. “It is more helpful for them in the long run to run tests sooner, rather than later.”
To prevent heart disease in the first place, diet and exercise are key.
“The top prevention initiative is a healthy lifestyle,” said Dr. Kimberly Redding , Georgia Department of Community Health Prevention and Wellness program director, “which includes a healthy diet and incorporating physical activity into the daily routine.”