Worse than Breast Cancer? The Truth About Heart Disease In Women

Heart disease in women
Worse than Breast Cancer? The Truth About Heart Disease In Women
Heart disease is often thought of as a men’s disease, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 
It’s actually the leading cause of death for women in the US, and the worst part is that it’s preventable up to 80 percent of the time.
Why are women so vulnerable to heart issues? 
In this article, we take a look at the risk factors, warning signs, and natural treatments for heart disease in women. 
The time has come for healthier, happier hearts for all sexes!

What Is Heart Disease?

Heart disease, or coronary heart disease (CHD), includes several conditions of the heart and circulatory system, including:
  • Coronary artery disease: blockages in the heart’s blood vessels 
  • Peripheral artery disease: blockages in the blood vessels in the arms and legs
  • Arrhythmia: irregular heart rhythm
  • Congestive heart failure: problems with the pumping of the heart muscle
For women over the age of 20, coronary artery disease is the most common type. Roughly 6 percent of women have it and the risk increases with age. (1)
Here’s a full breakdown of the statistics:

Statistics of Heart Disease In Women

According to the American Heart Association, roughly 1 in 3 women will die of heart disease. (2)
Women over age 55 have the highest risk, but rates for women under 55 are also on the rise. 
Despite the growing awareness, most people don’t realize how much of a problem heart disease is for women. 
Here are some of the most recent stats from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • 1 in 5 female deaths are caused by heart disease
  • 1 in 16 women age 20 or older may have coronary heart disease
  • For Asian women, only 1 in 30 are affected
  • 300,000 women died of heart disease in 2017 alone (3)
The scariest statistic of all, though, is that women are up to 20 percent more likely to die of complications from a heart attack. (4)
What gives?

Risk Factors that are More Serious for Women than Men

For both men and women, the biggest risk factors of heart disease are:
  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
About 50 percent of women with heart disease have at least one of these.
According to a 2018 study, these risk factors increase the chances of a heart attack much more in women than they do in men. (5)
Researchers crunched the data of roughly half a million people. Here’s what they found:
High blood pressure raises a woman’s risk of heart attack by 83 percent more than men, smoking by 55 percent, and diabetes by 47 percent.

Other Causes of Heart Disease In Women

Other common causes of heart disease in women are:
  • Family history of heart conditions
  • Menopause due to low levels of estrogen
  • Complications during pregnancy, like high blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Emotional stress and anxiety
  • A poor diet that’s high in sugar and processed foods
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Inflammatory conditions like arthritis and lupus

Early Signs of Heart Disease In Women

Many women don’t notice symptoms until it’s too late. 
Early signs of heart disease in women can include:
  • Chest discomfort 
  • Upper back pain
  • Neck, jaw, or throat pain
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • General weakness
  • Sweating
These are all signs that the heart is having to work too hard to circulate blood. 

Other Symptoms of Heart Disease In Women

As the disease progresses, symptoms can develop into:
  • Problems sleeping
  • Weight gain
  • Coughing 
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling in the feet, legs, and ankles
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Heartburn
  • Fainting
  • Indigestion 
  • Lightheadedness
Women tend to have slightly different symptoms than men. Many don’t have normal symptoms like chest pain. Instead, they just feel anxious, tired, and have a hard time sleeping.
In one study, 80 percent of women experienced one or more of these symptoms at least one month before a heart attack occurred. (6)
Don’t ignore early warning signs!

Challenges Facing Women In the Fight Against Heart Disease

Women are facing several unique challenges in the fight against heart disease:

1. The rumor that heart disease is a men’s disease

In a survey from the American Heart Association, only half of the women knew that heart disease was the leading cause of death for women. (7)
It’s not just a guy’s thing! 

2. Fewer women used in studies

To make matters worse, heart disease research historically focuses more on men. 
As recently as the 1980s, most medical professionals thought of heart disease as a men’s disease.
Fortunately, a lot has changed since then.
Today, medical schools recognize heart disease as the leading cause of death for women. 
However, the myth still has an effect on the general public.

3. Women often don’t experience classic symptoms

A lot of the time, many of the most well-known signs of heart disease don’t show up in women. 
Ultimately, this makes it tricky to spot early. 
Women mistake symptoms like cardiac-related abdomen pain for indigestion and other conditions. This can delay treatment when every second counts.

5 Ways to Prevent Heart Disease Naturally

The best way to prevent heart disease in women is through better diet and lifestyle choices. 
By exercising, eating right, and not smoking, your heart can be fit as a fiddle. 

1. Ditch the Sugar

There’s a strong link between sugar, heart disease, and diabetes. 
For starters, sugar causes inflammation. 
Chronic inflammation is a common risk factor for both heart disease and diabetes. 
In addition to inflammation, sugar causes weight gain and obesity—another major risk factor for heart disease. 
Even worse, sugar promotes bad gut bacteria. 
Bad gut bacteria can weaken the gut lining and cause inflammation to spread throughout the body. 
Plus, bad gut bacteria is linked to worse stress, anxiety, and depression.
The bottom line is, if you want to prevent heart disease, you have to ditch the sugar. 

2. Eat Heart-healthy Foods & Supplements

If inflammatory foods like sugar are bad for the heart, then anti-inflammatory foods are great for the heart.
A diet rich in healthy fats, vegetables, grass-fed meat, and wild-caught fish can fight inflammation and prevent heart disease.
Fish, like salmon, sardines, and tuna are packed with the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA. 
Omega-3s are some of the most powerful anti-inflammatory compounds on the planet. 
If you don’t like eating fish, you can take fish oil supplements instead. 
High-quality fish oil brands are entirely flavorless so you won’t have to deal with that gross fishy taste. 
Other heart-healthy supplements include:
  • Curcumin
  • Garlic
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Glucosamine

3. Stress Less

Emotional stress boosts inflammation and increases the risk of heart disease. 
Over time, stress hormones can cause chronic inflammation and damage healthy cells. 
Of course, stressing less is easier said than done. 
Life is hectic, but luckily there are great stress-reducing practices like meditation, breathwork, and of course, exercise.

4. Exercise Regularly

If you could bottle up all the benefits of exercise and put it in a pill, it would be the greatest supplement of all time. 
Exercise balances hormones reduce stress, fights inflammation, and greatly lowers the risk of heart disease in women. 
Go for a walk, swim, hike, or play your favorite sports. 
Shoot for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day, three days a week. 

5. More Sleeping & No Smoking

Poor sleep can significantly increase your risk for heart disease. 
For most people, 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep is best. 
And when you’re done with your beauty rest, lay off the cigarettes!
Vaping isn’t much better, so it’s best to avoid that too.

A Bright, Heart-Healthy Future Lies Ahead

Oh, the times they are-a-changing.
A lot of progress has been made with heart disease in women. 
Awareness is growing, and every year more women see a cardiologist and receive heart medications. 
The gap in the death rate between men and women is closing quickly, but more work still needs to be done. We need more studies that focus on women and more awareness campaigns.
Do your part to spread the word and tell your friends about the risk of heart disease.
If you have any more questions about heart disease in women, feel free to contact us at Complete Care Health Centers. 
We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.
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