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Women’s Hearts Break Too

By: Reader’s Digest
Source: Healthy Heart

Women’s Hearts Break Too

According to Nancy Loving, who survived a heart attack in her forties and is a cofounder of the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, women are victims of two myths: Only men have heart disease, and women are at risk only in old age.

The truth is that eight million American women are living with heart disease.  That includes 10 percent of all women between the ages of 45 and 64, and 25 percent of those 65 and older.

More than 435,000 women have heart attacks each year and more than half die.  In fact, while heart attack rates for men are falling, rates for women are on the rise. One in every two American women will die of heart disease.  Yet doctors still overlook uniquely female cardiovascular risks, even to the point of misdiagnosing and dismissing women’s heart attacks while they’re happening.  Many women’s heart attacks don’t include classic chest pain.  A new study of more than 500 female heart attack survivors found that top symptoms were shortness of breath, feeling weak and/or fatigued, breaking into a cold sweat, and dizziness-not the classic heart attack signs recognized by most emergency medical personnel.  Forty-three percent felt no chest pain at all.

What’s more, the causes of heart disease are different for women.  For example, type 2 diabetes boosts heart disease risk more in women that in men.  Women who smoke are twice as likely to have heart attacks as male smokers.  Depression is also a stronger heart attack risk factor for women.

And beyond that, women have risk factors that men don’t face.  Taking birth control pills is one example: High blood pressure is two to three times more common in women who take oral contraceptives, especially in those who are overweight.