Who is at Risk?
Heart disease was once believed to be a disease that primarily affected men, but that is no longer the truth. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in America. The American Heart Association estimates that more than 6 million people in the United States suffer from heart disease. The estimated age-adjusted statistics for angina show women age 20 and older are higher than rates for men, and African-American and Hispanic women have an even greater occurrence of angina.
Since 1984, the number of heart disease-related deaths in women have exceeded the number of deaths in men. In 2005, there were about 45,000 more heart disease-related deaths in women than in men.
The American Heart Association reports that often women often overlook symptoms. What many disregard as indigestion may actually be a sign of heart disease. Although more women die from heart disease, they are less likely to seek treatment. With many people continuing to smoke, eat poorly and not exercise enough, experts fear that the number of deaths from heart disease in men and women will continue to rise. It is never too late or too early to adjust your lifestyle for a healthy heart. Start working today to prevent heart disease.
Heart Disease Warning Signs
The most common symptom of heart disease is angina, or chest pain.
Angina is described as:
- Painful feeling
While the discomfort typically is in the chest, it can sometimes be felt in the arms, left shoulder, neck, throat, jaw or back. Often, angina and chest pain are dismissed as indigestion.
Other symptoms of heart disease include:
- Sudden fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Palpitations of the heart
- Increased heart rate
- Cold sweats
- Unexplained anxiety
Heart valve disease
Heart valve disease is the inability of one or more of the heart’s valves to open or close properly. Insufficient opening (stenosis) keeps the maximum amount of blood from flowing through the valves. Improper closure of a valve (insufficiency) can cause blood to flow backward through the heart, decreasing the amount of blood pumped through the heart.
Heart valve disease can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Birth defect
- Coronary artery disease
Symptoms of heart valve disease include:
- Shortness of breath during physical activity or sleep
- Excessive tiredness or weakness
- Dizziness or fainting
- Swelling in the ankles and feet
- An irregular heartbeat
- Chest pain or angina
- Difficulty breathing when lying down
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