Dr Maria Zweig MD
The Number ONE cause of death by women is Heart Disease and by a lot more than you would think.
When asked, most women will give a different answer to this question, most of the women we have asked say some type of cancer, homicide, and even drunk driving, but heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined, the 2nd largest cause of death among women. Cancer is followed by respiratory disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease. Although most headlines recently are filled with news about infectious disease, the number one killer of people throughout the world was and still is cardiovascular disease. We believe the media does not put enough focus on cardiovascular disease, especially because unlike most other diseases our life styles contribute a lot to its prevalence.
Cardiovascular disease includes:
- Heart disease
Diabetes is a key risk factor for heart disease.
Women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack.
So, what puts us more at risk?
- A worse risk factor for women than men.
- Pregnancy is a window in to the future – so, beware if you developed hypertension or diabetes during your pregnancy. You are at higher risk to develop these diseases later in life.
- Loss of estrogen – naturally at menopause, surgically or by any means puts us at risk. Adding it back in whatever form, if created by man does not lower the risk down and sometimes increase it.
- Unhealthy life style – poor nutrition, being overweight, lack or little exercise, indulging in toxic substances.
- Depression and stress are true killers more so with women than men.
- High bad cholesterol (LDL > 100), especially if accompanied with a low good cholesterol (HDL <55).
- Metabolic syndrome – increased belly size, high blood pressure, high triglycerides and high blood sugar.
- Family history of heart disease.
All women are at risk, its never to early or too late to start lowering your risk.
What can you do?
- Quit or don’t start smoking
- Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day most days a week, more if you need to loose weight.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Stay in the green shaded areas of the table below.
- Eat a diet that is low in saturated fats, cholesterol and salt.
- Get a check up and have your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood lipids (cholesterol and triglycerides) examined.
- Get chronic diseases under control. Follow your doctors advise on taking prescribed medications. Follow parameters placed by your physician. It is especially important to get diabetes (HgA1c <7) and high blood sugar under control.
- Ask your doctor if you should be taking aspirin.
Be aware of the symptoms of heart disease. Women often present differently than men. Any painful or pressure-like sensation on the left side of your chest, neck, or arm should be seen to right away. Other worrisome symptoms include:
- Weakness in half of your body
- Difficulty speaking, walking or standing
- Worse headache of your life
- Fainting sensation
If they’re new symptoms happening now go to the nearest emergency room. If you have noticed these symptoms in the past with exercise, at rest, or with stress go see a cardiologist and get tested. Sometimes it feels like indigestion. Shortness of breath or profuse sweating can be present.
Hypertension and diabetes often don’t give early symptoms so you need to be checked.
Cardiovascular testing is available but you need to be referred by a physician to get them done. Be pro-active and discuss the possibility with your primary physician or gynecologist. Make an appointment with a cardiologist. This is not a disease of older women only; all women need to be vigilant in detection, prevention and treatment