If you thought that heart disease predominantly affects men, you are not alone. In fact, only one in five American women believes that heart disease is a threat to their health. It’s a common myth that women aren’t at high risk for cardiovascular disease.
But the reality is very different.
The risk of a heart attack in women under 40 is rising
Heart disease kills approximately one woman every single minute, making this disease the number one cause of death for women…even higher than all causes of cancers COMBINED.
Even more troubling, a recent study found that the annual incidence of acute myocardial infarction(heart attack) increased in the last twenty years, especially among young women (between 34 and 55 years old) while decreasing among young men.
So why is the risk of a heart attack in women under 40 on the rise?
Increased Stressors Among Women Under 40
Various reasons could be attributed to this increased risk, such as elevated stressors of:
- juggling work and family and the unrealistic expectations from society (feeling shame around not being a fully present mother and a top employee who is available at all times)
- comparison due to the rise in social media attachment
- financial stress due to debt or attempting to keep up with the Joneses (living above their means)
- socioeconomic factors *especially impacting women of colorThese increased stressors (all added together) over the past 20 years may contribute to the rise in high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and yes, even heart attacks among younger women.
What’s even a bit more unsettling is that women are more likely to die within 5 years from their first heart attack than men.
Another study found that women with cardiovascular issues either ignored their symptoms, or if they did seek medical assistance, they were misdiagnosed, or their symptoms were minimized.
Busting The Myth of Heart Disease Risk In Women Can Save Lives
These misconceptions about cardiovascular disease could put you or women like you at risk. It is important to know the risk factors, the symptoms of coronary heart disease in women, and what you can do to prevent it. This just might save your life or someone close to you. Please share this article or information with a loved one so they are aware as well!
Heart Disease Symptoms in Women
Symptoms of coronary heart disease in women can differ compared to men, and this can be one of the factors why women don’t seek help immediately after a heart attack.
Below is a list of some of the most common symptoms that women may experience during a heart attack:
- shortness of breath
- back or jaw pain
- cold sweat
- feeling lightheaded
- extreme fatigue
- pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
Risk Factors of Heart Attack in Women Under 40
Numerous factors can increase your risk of coronary heart disease. Here are the most common.
- Heredity: if your parents had heart disease, you have a higher risk of developing heart issues yourself.
- Age: women around menopause have a higher risk than before menopause. There are some studies that found that hormones may provide protection from heart issues.
- Medical conditions: if you have one or more of the following medical conditions, you have a higher risk of having a heart attack, diabetes, obesity, dementia, autoimmune disorders, but also endometriosis or history of preeclampsia during pregnancy.
- High level of stress: chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure and contribute to heart disease.
- Abuse of alcohol: While 1 or 2 drinks won’t hurt, heavy alcohol drinkers (more than 112 grams or 7 drinks a week) have an increased risk of coronary heart disease.
- Tobacco use: Smoking increases your risk of heart disease by 2-4x!
- Sedentary lifestyle: women who sit or lie down most of the day have a higher risk of heart issues.
How Can Women Prevent Heart Attacks? Lifestyle Tips
Some of the risk factors listed above are outside your control. For example, you cannot control your family history, your age, or some of your medical conditions. But you can control many other factors that can help you significantly lower the risk of heart disease.
A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and plenty of daily physical activity can help lower blood pressure, control blood cholesterol, BMI, and your risk for type II diabetes.
Prioritize Your Diet: A healthy diet is a key component in your fight against cardiovascular disease. Eating nutrient-rich foods that are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fibers from vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (like the Mediterranean Diet) is a great place to start.
Manage Your Stress: A big part of a healthy lifestyle is learning to take care of yourself and managing your stress levels. Practicing daily meditation can enhance overall health and well-being. Try to ease up your workload where possible. Don’t overbook yourself and give yourself more moments throughout the day and week to be still and be in the present moment.
Get in Daily Movement. Pick up an activity that you love and have fun. Working out shouldn’t be an annoying task you hate because we all know it’ll get brushed off.
However, playing tennis with a friend, going for an evening bike ride or walk with your spouse is something that may be enjoyable for you and that you look forward to doing. (It’s never too late to try out a new activity like hiking, rock climbing, yoga, dancing in your kitchen!)
Spread the Word
I hope that after reading this, you are now one out of five American women that believe that cardiovascular disease is a real threat to their health. Recognizing these issues is the first step in addressing them. Help us spread the word to other women, and if you think you are at high risk and want to change your lifestyle, we are always here to help you!
Let’s Get Your Heart Healthy Today
Does learning the risk of a heart attack in women under 40 worry you? We can help you turn that worry into action. Take an in-depth look at your health and lifestyle, identify areas of concern and work with Dr. Dersam and our team to make sure your heart is healthy. Book your virtual consult today or contact our office at 480-621-8638 to schedule your first consultation with Dr. Dersam.
Dr. Cheri Dersam
Dr. Dersam is board certified in both Integrative and Emergency Medicine and fellowship trained in Functional Medicine. Dr. Dersam focuses on a personalized approach that empowers each patient to achieve optimal health in mind, body and spirit.