Women and Heart Disease – Why We Go Red

February 5, 2014


Friday, February 7 one decision is made easier for women across the country as they look through their closets and Go Red in support of women and heart disease by wearing red. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., yet many women still associate heart attacks and heart disease with men. However, one in three women over the age of 20 already has some form of heart disease. Women also need to be aware of their stroke risk, as more women than men suffer a stroke, affecting more than 100,000 women under the age of 65. Go Red for Women helps put the spotlight on women’s heart health to identify possible risk factors, signs and symptoms to be aware of and lifestyle modifications to reduce the risk.

Women’s Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Traditional Risk Factors

Heart disease is affected by the traditional risk factors for men often hear from their health care providers to be aware of including include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Managing these risk factors with medication therapies, diet and exercise is critical to reduce the risk of a cardiovascular event.

Non-traditional Risk Factors

For women, other risk factors can increase their risk of heart disease and they many may not be aware of the association. For example, metabolic syndrome impacts women’s heart health more than it does men’s heart health. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by a combination of abdominal fat around the midsection, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar and high triglyceride levels. These factors all which increase a women’s chance of developing heart disease. Additionally, the risks are not equal when it comes to smoking. Women who smoke are at a higher risk for heart disease than men who smoke. Women tend to handle stress and depression less effectively than men, which can negatively impact heart health. Managing stress and depression can help make leading a healthy lifestyle easier and should be addressed with a health care provider. Finally, hormonal changes following menopause (a drop in estrogen) has been associated with a greater risk of heart disease for women.

Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

Women may not experience the same symptoms men experience when a heart attack strikes. Instead of shortness of breath, chest pains or numbness down the left arm, women may experience nausea, neck pain, dizziness, sweating, and unusual fatigue. Women should not assume they are just having indigestion and let symptoms progress or worsen before being seen by a health care provider. Time is critical to treat heart disease to lessen the damage to the heart.

Reduce the Risk

First, women should have the traditional risk factors (blood pressure, cholesterol and obesity) properly managed through medication therapy, diet and exercise under the guidance of their health care provider. Second, women who smoke should stop through a smoking cessation program and should definitely not start smoking if they do not currently smoke. Additionally, regular exercise most days a week, consisting of 30 to 60 minutes of vigorous to moderate intensity activity, can help reduce the risk of heart disease. A diet low in saturated fat, salt and cholesterol will also promote better heart health for women.

If you have questions about your heart health, contact your health care provider. 

Come Join Us

BSA will have a booth at the annual Go Red for Women Luncheon, which will take place February 11, 2014 at the Amarillo Civic Center Heritage Ballroom.  The event begins at 10:30 am. Call 806-316-8444 for more information.