woman smiling with hands on chest

A Healthy Heart for Valentine's Day

Your Health

This article has been archived. We will no longer be updating it. For our most up-to-date information, please visit our heart disease information here.

With Heart Health Awareness Month coming up in February, we were wondering if HealthyWomen readers thought men or women had a higher incidence of heart disease, so we polled our audience. We found that more than half of respondents thought women have a higher incidence of heart disease than men. According to the latest numbers, however, women have a slightly lower incidence of cardiovascular disease (37.4 percent for men to 35 percent for women) but are more likely to die from this condition. This may be because they don't know the signs and symptoms to look for when it comes to heart attacks in women because they're often very different than those men experience. Do your readers know what to look for?

Women's symptoms when experiencing a heart attack are often milder and less specific than men's and may include things such as unusual fatigue, sleep problems, indigestion and weakness in the arms. These symptoms are often missed by women and misdiagnosed by health care professionals.

In addition, if women do survive a heart attack, they're 28 percent more likely to die in the year following their event than men. This is because women are often treated less aggressively by medical professionals once they've had a heart attack. They are less likely than men to receive medications that prevent future heart events such as beta blockers, statins and ACE inhibitors. A good resource to help women understand heart disease can be found here.

The good news is there are many things women can do to reduce their risk of heart disease. This includes not only being aware of the signs and symptoms of heart disease and heart attacks, but also making lifestyle changes. Eating well, keeping weight at a normal BMI level, exercising, not smoking and limiting alcohol consumption all can help lower one's risk of getting cardiovascular disease (CVD). HealthyWomen has significant resources to help women reduce their risk in our Heart Health Center.

It's more important than ever to educate readers about heart disease, given it's the leading cause of death for American women and men. In fact, according to 2008 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,200 Americans die each day of CVD, an average of one death every 39 seconds.

Best in health,
Elizabeth Battaglino Cahill

You might be interested in