It’s American Heart Month and Friday, February 3, Bon Secours Rappahannock General Hospital (BSRGH) urges the community to support the American Heart Association’s (AHA) National Wear Red Day to promote awareness and education surrounding women’s heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but is still often thought of as “a man’s disease,” when in fact, according to the AHA, it’s the number one killer of women age 20 and over, killing approximately one woman every minute.
“Many people have the mistaken belief that all heart attacks look like you see on television, with sudden crushing chest pains and obvious symptoms,” said BSRGH staff development coordinator Cathy Myers, RN. “In some cases, heart attack symptoms can be very different for women than men and often, their symptoms are more subtle, making them easy to overlook which results in the high death statistics.”
Research shows women often experience symptoms farther in advance than many men, exhibiting new or different physical symptoms as long as a month or more before experiencing heart attacks. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort, however women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, indigestion, anxiety, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
In recent years, BSRGH’s emergency department has treated approximately 700 cardiac related cases annually and the statistics remain steady that about half of these are female patients.
“Women becoming more knowledgeable of their risk factors for heart disease can make a big difference in prevention, as well as treatment time,” said Myers.
A family history of heart disease does increase risk of developing the disease, but many women without a family history still have heart attacks or problems, she said. Other contributing factors can include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease, poor dietary patterns, smoking, being overweight and physical inactivity.
The American Heart Association says that 80% of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women made the right choices for their hearts involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.
BSRGH is addressing the needs of the community by providing increased access to local cardiology services, as well as routine blood pressure and cholesterol screenings that are free and open to the public.
“Education is the key. Knowing the facts can help you prevent and fight heart disease, giving you the potential to save your own life, or the life of a loved one,” said Myers.
Visit goredforwomen.org to learn how to save lives.