Many women consider weight gain a top concern, but they overlook a larger danger to their health – Heart disease. Certain conditions appear to increase heart disease risk in women including pre-eclampsia and eclampsia, gestational diabetes, migraine headaches with aura, early onset menopause and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Here are the facts about heart disease every woman should know:

  1. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD), which includes coronary heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, and stroke, are the number one cause of death in women.
  2. Five times as many women die from heart disease as breast cancer.
  3. Women who have a heart attack are more likely to die or suffer a second heart attack compared to men.
  4. The risks of heart disease are higher for Indigenous and ethnically diverse women, those living in poverty and women in remote and rural areas.
  5. Women’s heart attack symptoms may differ from that of men as the common heart attack symptom is chest pain or pressure, but women tend to have symptoms that are unusual and they can be subtle. As a result, women often wait longer to seek medical attention and these often lead to delayed or missed diagnoses. These symptoms in women may include:
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Indigestion or upper abdominal pain
  • Jaw or throat pain
  • Pain in one or both arms
  • Palpitations
  1. After the age of 65, high blood pressure (hypertension) is more common in women.
  2. Pre-eclampsia is an independent predictor of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Women who have had pre-eclampsia should have their blood pressure, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked annually.
  3. During pregnancy, hypertension is the most common acquired medical condition. The heart pumps more blood during pregnancy. This can put stress on the heart and arteries.
  4. Menopause can make a woman more likely to have heart disease. As the levels of estrogen go down, the arteries can get stiffer and the blood pressure, belly fat, and LDL (“bad” cholesterol) go up after menopause. Staying active can help keep your heart healthy after “the change.”

Once women have this information, the next step is to talk to their doctors and stay up-to-date on their annual physical examination and have their blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors checked.

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