It’s an established fact that the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease. Although it may be typically thought of as a “man’s disease,” heart disease affects almost as many women as men per year. Despite this, only 56% of women recognize that heart disease is their biggest killer (CDC).
Many women don’t know that heart disease is seven times deadlier than breast cancer (Cleveland Clinic). In 2018, heart disease killed 300,977 women. By comparison, all forms of cancer combined killed 283,721 women, with 42,455 of those caused by breast cancer. Of course, every disease is significant and requires attention, but women often forget that they too can be victims of heart disease.
On average, women notice symptoms of cardiovascular disease 10 years later than men (Cleveland Clinic). For a heart attack, chest pain is the most common symptom for both men and women. However, women actually experience unique symptoms of heart attack that often go ignored (known as a silent heart attack) which can be fatal. These unusual symptoms include jaw and neck pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, indigestion, flu-like symptoms, and sudden sweating with no cause to name a few.
For both men and women, risk factors for heart disease include high LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking. Other risk factors include diabetes, autoimmune conditions, menopause, and high blood pressure during pregnancy.
The bottom line is that heart disease is much more common in women than people may realize. Many women who have heart disease don’t have any sudden, striking symptoms typical in men. It’s never too early to connect with your doctor about your risk for heart disease, especially if it runs in your family.