February and Women’s Heart Health

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

Updated: Feb. 5, 2021

February is American Heart Month. Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, yet heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for women in the United States and accounts for one in three female deaths every year. Fortunately, education and prevention efforts can prevent up to 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events.

The COVID-19 pandemic has overshadowed this year’s heart health observance. Since COVID patients with heart disease have a greater risk for more severe outcomes, it is all the more important to reduce any risk factors, especially for women.

Risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, depression or metabolic syndrome are found more frequently in women. Other heart related risk factors like diabetes and smoking may even be more dangerous for women than men. Hypertension, a common risk factor for heart disease, is a serious issue for women. Unlike men, life events such as pregnancy, menopause, or taking birth control pills put women at an increased risk for developing high blood pressure.

In addition, women are more likely (than men) to be misdiagnosed with a heart attack, and as a result, may have worse outcomes following the attack. That is because women often have nontraditional symptoms of a heart attack. Unlike men, who typically have chest pain and discomfort, women often experience symptoms such as:

  • Pain in the back, neck, jaw or throat
  • Indigestion or heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, getting to a hospital quickly is crucial for survival, since treatments for clogged arteries work best within the first 90 minutes after a heart attack. If you think you, or someone else, may be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

Adopting certain healthy habits like not smoking, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure levels, plus losing weight and staying active can help reduce a woman’s chances from dying from heart disease.

Legacy Community Health provides a diabetes and hypertension program aimed at helping patients manage their heart health. Qualified patients diagnosed with both conditions can get a blood pressure cuff to start taking their blood pressure readings at home.  Free support in better managing hypertension is also available from health educators and pharmacists. To learn more about this program or if you want to talk to your Legacy healthcare provider about reducing your risk for heart disease, call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.