Salt Lake City, Utah (Good Things Utah) February is National Heart Month and experts from Intermountain Health’s cardiovascular and vascular program are teaming up with Good Things Utah to educate women about their heart health.
Every Monday in February, Good Things Utah and Intermountain Health highlight women’s heart issues.
While you may think heart disease is a men’s problem, it is the number one cause of death in women. Even breast cancer claims fewer lives. That’s why it’s recommended that women take action to keep their hearts healthy — and reduce their risk of heart attack or stroke.
Heart disease in women can be overlooked or overlooked.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. A recent survey shows that more women are more concerned about their risk of breast cancer than they are about heart disease, and awareness about heart disease has declined. Heart disease in women can be overlooked or overlooked, and as a result, it can be undertreated.
“More than 40% of people of reproductive age who could become pregnant have at least one chronic medical condition or obstetric risk factor,” says Jennifer Merriman, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine physician with Intermountain Health who specializes in high-risk pregnancies. “And some women may not know they have symptoms or risk factors, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, that put them at greater risk for heart disease before they become pregnant, during pregnancy, or after giving birth.
Some women may not recognize their symptoms until they are severe, or they may know they have symptoms or health problems but have not spoken to a doctor or been treated for them before becoming pregnant.
Dr. Merriman says these conditions and other factors can make them more at risk for developing heart disease or complications during pregnancy.
It is important to identify risk factors for heart disease and have those risks treated before pregnancy or very early in pregnancy.
“If a woman is considering becoming pregnant and is elderly or has health problems, it is important to talk to a healthcare provider before becoming pregnant. If a woman is already pregnant, it is important to see a healthcare provider very early in the pregnancy, to identify, treat or monitor those risks as they could affect mother or baby,” Dr. Merriman said.
If heart disease goes unrecognized or untreated, women are at risk for heart attack or death. Because the symptoms of heart disease in women differ from those in men, their condition may be underrecognized by women themselves and health professionals.
There may be health care biases, as well as inequalities in care, that contribute to the underrecognition and undertreatment of heart disease in women. There are health disparities and many social barriers people face that prevent them from seeking care such as financial worries, lack of social support, poor understanding of health issues or being too busy with life.
Known risk factors for heart disease for both women and men:
|Conditions to identify and control||Lifestyle choices|
No smoking or vaping
Get ~8 hours of sleep at night
How the symptoms of heart disease in women differ from the symptoms in men
Often, the symptoms of a heart attack in women are similar to those in men: crushing chest pain. But sometimes the symptoms can be vague, such as shortness of breath, nausea, or fatigue. As a result, women and healthcare teams may overlook heart disease and attribute symptoms to “anxiety” or other conditions. Sometimes other symptoms can overshadow a woman’s complaint of chest pain.
In the United States, there are high maternal mortality rates, that is, death around the time of childbirth. This is due to a higher age of mothers, more health problems that increase their risk of heart disease, and more complex heart conditions.
For women with heart disease or other high-risk health conditions who are considering pregnancy, the Department of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Intermountain Medical Center has a Pregnancy Preparation, Prevention, and Risk Evaluation (PrePPARE) Clinic that provides pre-pregnancy risk assessments and evaluations. Phone call (801) 507-7400 For more information.
For more information on women and heart disease, visit Intermountain Health website.