Improving Heart Health in Women

CINCINNATI—Death rates for heart disease are dropping, but it still remains the No. 1 one killer of American women.

Heart disease continues to cause one in every three deaths among American women, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). February is American Heart Month and AHA will work to raise awareness of heart disease among women through sponsorship of the 12th annual National Wear Red Day on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015.

“Heart disease is detected later in women than in men,” explains Stephanie Dunlap, DO, associate professor in the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and medical director of the UC Health Advanced Heart Treatment Center. “Most women that develop cardiovascular disease develop it about a decade after menopause.”

Dunlap says women have worse outcomes than men after having a heart attack, while African-American women have worse outcomes with coronary heart disease and stroke than other American women.

Women with heart disease also experience heart attacks with symptoms that differ from men, she explains.

“Most men have chest discomfort described as pressure or heaviness,” says Dunlap. “Women usually have marked shortness of breath, palpitations and sweating. If they have chest pain, it is usually described as sharp.”

Dunlap offers some tips for improving cardiovascular health in women which include:

• Stop smoking.
• Lose weight.
• Control blood pressure. More men than women have hypertension up to the age of 55, but more women than men have hypertension starting at age 55.
• Lower your cholesterol.
• Get up and move. Being sedentary is a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. Get 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. You can break up the 30 minutes into two 15 minute- or three 10-minute sessions.

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