The first Friday in February is National Wear Red Day. On February 4th, people across the United States will wear all things red and share posts on social media to raise and spread awareness of women’s heart health. This national campaign urges women to learn about their predisposition for heart disease and take proactive steps to lower this risk.
Why does National Wear Red Day specifically focus on women’s heart health?
According to the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2021 Heart Disease & Stroke Statistics, heart disease takes more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined, causing 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year. This same study found that this amounts to approximately one death every 80 seconds. The AHA also states that heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men.
Women and heart disease by the numbers
Here are some additional statistics from the AHA about how heart disease affects women.
- Though heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, only 1 in 5 American women know that heart disease is their greatest health threat.
- 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
- Since 1984, more women have died each year from heart disease than men, and the survival gap continues to widen.
- 1 in 31 American women die from breast cancer every year, compared to 1 in 3 dying of heart disease.
- 64% of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
- Nearly 50,000 African American women die annually of cardiovascular diseases.
- Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Hispanics.
What causes heart disease and what are some of the symptoms to watch for?
Heart disease is caused when plaque develops in the arteries and blood that lead to the heart. Plaque is made of fatty molecules, cholesterol, and minerals. When enough of it builds up, it prevents nutrients and oxygen from reaching your heart – this process is called atherosclerosis.
There are several risk factors that play an important role in whether or not you’ll develop heart disease. These factors include age, family history, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, an unhealthy diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, stress, inflammatory diseases, and clinical depression. For women, complications during pregnancy and menopause are also risk factors. Additionally, in the United States, certain racial and ethnic groups face a higher risk of dying from heart disease than others.
Numerous problems can result from heart disease, such as: heart attack, stroke, heart failure, arrhythmia, and heart valve problems.
Symptoms of heart issues can vary greatly between men and women. Though the media has conditioned us to think that extreme chest pain is the primary indicator of a heart attack, this often isn’t the case for women. Women are more likely to experience nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, lower chest pain, or extreme fatigue.
How can you prevent it?
Though there are many risk factors for heart disease including some that are out of our control, education, information, and care can empower women to treat and prevent heart disease. Not smoking, managing your blood sugar, lowering your cholesterol, controlling your blood pressure, knowing family history, staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating healthy are all lifestyle choices that you can make to prevent or treat heart disease.
It’s important to talk with your doctor about what you can do to prevent or manage heart disease. If you’re eligible for Medicare, make sure you enroll so that you’re able to get medical assistance. If you need help signing up for Medicare or understanding your benefits, connect with the Guided Solutions team today.