Carrie Fisher’s death from a massive heart attack shocked her fans around the world. Just 60, the actress and author, had a heart attack while on a plane and died a few days later in the hospital. While often thought of as a “man’s disease,” heart disease claims the life of 1 in 3 women, according to the American Heart Association.
“What’s more striking, many women do not realize they are at more risk for heart disease than breast cancer,” notes Dr. Martha Gulati, Division Chief of Cardiology at the University of Arizona College or Medicine — Phoenix and Physician Executive Director for the Banner — University Medicine Cardiovascular Institute.
Women’s heart health
Gulati is an outspoken advocate for preventing heart disease in women. Her video and lecture series “Heart to Heart” is invaluable for understanding the impact and risk of heart disease for women. Take a moment to watch the series:
Episode 1 kicks off this video series for women who love their heart like their favorite pair of shoes. Heart disease is the #1 killer of women — and men. A healthy diet, exercise, reduction of salt and knowing risk factors for a heart attack can prevent 80% of heart disease.
Why the bikini approach isn’t enough
“Heart disease is the No.1 killer of women. Yet women’s health often focuses primarily on the bikini area — breasts and reproductive health,” says Dr. Martha Gulati in the video and stresses why the current “bikini approach” to women’s health is simply not enough.
Men vs. women
Though men and women share similar risk factors for heart disease, there are many that are unique to women. In Episode 3 of Heart to Heart, Dr. Gulati breaks down some of the risk factors that are solely associated with women
After four decades of positive strides in the battle against heart disease nationwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the death rate from cardiovascular disease to increase by the end of 2016, so in Episode 4 of Heart to Heart, Dr. Gulati encourages you to “Be Empowered” about your health and health care.
Know the symptoms
Remember, women’s heart attack symptoms can vary from the classic, chest clutching pain so often depicted in the movies. “One-third of women will have what we label as atypical symptoms. These symptoms include: shortness of breath with minimal exertion, jaw pain, neck pain, or back pain without chest pain. They may also have palpitations, dizziness and profound fatigue, Dr. Gulati says.
Women must educate themselves to know about their risks as well as the symptoms of a heart attack. Once you know what to look for, as Dr. Gulati says in the video series, be your own advocate. If you think you are having a heart attack call 911. Time is of the essence. Don’t drive yourself, don’t have a loved one drive you. Don’t wait and see if it passes. See a doctor right away.
The good news about heart disease is that if you are aware that it is a primary health risk for women you can take steps to prevent it. Family history, age, gender, race and having had a previous heart attack or stroke put you at a high risk. However, you can control many aspects of your health to prevent heart disease.
Maintaining a healthy weight, keeping your blood pressure and blood cholesterol under control, not smoking, or quitting if you do smoke, getting regular exercise and controlling your diabetes, if you have it, will go a long way in lowering your risk for heart attack.
Most importantly, share this information with your friends and family who may also not be aware that heart disease is the number 1 killer of women.
If you would like to learn more about heart disease and women, please visit www.UAHeartToHeart.com