With a lot of focus on cancer in the media, it’s easy to forget about the number one threat to women: heart disease. Each year, more women die from cardiovascular disease than from all cancers combined. As a woman, you may believe heart disease is more of a man’s disease or that you don’t have to worry about it until you’re older. In fact, younger women are twice as likely to die of a heart attack than younger men.

“According to statistics, 50,000 more women than men die of heart disease every year. If you are a woman, don’t wait to check your heart,” said a cardiologist with The Memorial Hospital.

Women’s heart attack symptoms are often more subtle, and their chest pain can feel more like pressure or tightness than the pain men tend to experience. Heart attack symptoms in women include:

  • Unusual fatigue

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

  • Muscle weakness

  • Sleep disturbance

  • Nausea, vomiting or indigestion

  • Lightheadedness, sweating or dizziness

  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdomen

“Heart Disease in women is very difficult since many women have atypical symptoms such as shortness of breath and extreme fatigue. The good news is that almost 50% of heart disease problems can be avoided by lifestyle changes,” the cardiologist said.

The solution to preventing heart disease is adequate blood pressure control and healthy lifestyle habits. The cardiologist can’t say enough about how good habits can lower a woman’s risk – almost 50% of heart disease problems can be avoided by lifestyle changes.

¨Diet, exercise, attaining ideal body weight, and smoking cessation are key lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy. There is no quick fix; medications are not an antidote to an unhealthy lifestyle,” the cardiologist added.

A heart-healthy diet includes an abundance of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, legumes, lean meats, fish, and a limited intake of trans-fats often found in baked goods and fried foods.

Weight management is also a key, as a growing waste line is linked to heart disease. Set realistic weight loss goals, aiming to lose weight gradually for a lasting effect.

A combination of diet changes and regular exercise works best. The American Heart Association recommends 30 to 60 minutes of exercise three to four days each week as a good goal. Better yet, aim to “move every day.” Know that minutes add up and the benefits are the same whether you exercise 30 or more minutes all at once or in 10-minute intervals throughout the day.