While heart disease has long been recognized as a common health issue for men as they age, many doctors are less likely to be concerned about it in women. This is despite the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, the number one cause of death in all women, regardless of race or ethnicity, is heart disease. Even when broken down by groups, heart disease is the top cause of death in both black and white women, and is the number two cause of death (after cancer) in women who are Hispanic, American Indian or Asian/Pacific Islander.
I recently attended a heath fair that was sponsored by the Laguna Beach Community Clinic and they provided me with detailed information about heart disease in women. This is an issue that every women should worry about, particularly since many women and their doctors still think of heart disease as a man's illness.
While a man having a heart attack is likely to experience extreme fatigue, feelings of indigestion, sweating and chest pain, a women will have symptoms that can be much more subtle. For this reason, it is important that every woman be able to recognize when she should see her doctor or insist on being taken to the hospital.
Symptoms of Heart Disease or a Heart Attack in Women
Feeling extremely tired, even after a good night's sleep
Indigestion or nausea
A pain in the belly, above the belly button
A nervous, scared feeling for no clear reason
New or worse headaches than you have ever had
An ache, heaviness, tightness or burning feeling in the chest
An unusual pain in the back, especially between the shoulder blades
A tightness or pain in the chest, especially if it spreads to the neck, jaw, shoulders, ears or inside the arms.
If you are experiencing the above feelings, and especially if you are suffering from several of them, seek medical attention right away. Do NOT be too embarrassed to go to the emergency room. Far too many people have died because they didn't want to be embarrassed by going to the hospital when all they had was a bad case of gas or indigestion. It is much better to have it checked out than wait until it is too late.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Fortunately, there are a few things that people can do to reduce their risk of developing heart disease. While you may not be able to eliminate it completely, you will still want to postpone it as long as possible.
Be aware if heart disease runs in your family
Get preventative care by seeing your doctor regularly for check-ups
Do not smoke and avoid second-hand smoke, especially if you use birth control
Have your blood pressure checked and take medication, if necessary
If you have diabetes, keep it under control
Have your cholesterol levels checked regularly and take medication, if necessary
Get exercise; just taking a daily walk can make a big difference
Eat a healthy diet, including reducing the salt in what you eat
Control your stress by practicing yoga, meditation or other stress control measures
Follow your doctor's recommendations regarding any other steps you should be taking to maintain your health. Some of these measure, such as not smoking, will also protect you from the second leading cause of death in women ... cancer. Therefore, no matter which medical issue worries you the most, the lifestyle changes mentioned above are still a good idea.
If you are interested in learning more about medical concerns that could affect you as you age, use the tab at the top of this article. You will want to check out the other tabs, too, for help with your retirement planning.
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