More than Valentines: February and Women’s Heart Health

By Dr. Patricia Hayes, Medical Director of Family Practice

February is a month dedicated to hearts. Part of that is because of Valentine’s Day, but February is also known as Heart Health Month. Heart disease is often thought of as a man’s disease, yet nearly as many women as men die every year from heart disease in the United States. In fact, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death for women in this country and accounts for one in every three female deaths.

Risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, depression or metabolic syndrome can be 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 often more likely than men to be misdiagnosed with a heart attack and as a result, may do worse following the attack. Part of that is because many women 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 launched a diabetes and hypertension initiative 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. They will also be offered free support from health educators and pharmacists in managing their high blood pressure. To learn more about this program or if you want to talk to your Legacy healthcare provider about how to reduce your risk for heart disease, call 832-548-5000 to schedule an appointment.