If heart health is not on your list of things to discuss with your health care provider (HCP) during your annual well visit, 1) you're not alone, and 2) you need to add it to your list.
According to a recent HealthyWomen survey of 1,664 women, many—nearly half of our respondents (43 percent)—rarely or never discuss heart health with their HCP.
But don't mistake women's lack of communication for lack of concern. The opposite is true. More than half of respondents (58 percent) said they are either somewhat or very concerned about their heart health. And women should be concerned about their heart health. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, taking more than half a million female lives each year, according to the American Heart Association.
So why aren't women speaking to their HCPs about heart health? Fifty-four percent of our survey respondents said they don't think they need to, and 35 percent said they don't because their HCPs never brought it up.
This is surprising since one-third of our respondents have high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, which increases risk of heart disease. If you didn't know that cholesterol is a risk factor, you may also be unaware of other risk factors or symptoms of heart disease, and—in this case—what you don't know can hurt you. For example, did you know that pain in the neck or jaw is a heart attack symptom? How about back pain or nausea? Yes, those are all signs of heart attack, and only about half of our respondents correctly identified them.
What we found from our survey is that most people are making an effort to implement heart-healthy choices into their lives. Sixty-four percent of respondents said they sometimes plan heart-healthy meals, 84 percent said they never smoke, and 40 percent said they do light activity or exercise for at least 30 minutes two to four times per week.
While lifestyle choices are important, they are not the only factor in indicating your heart disease risk. Among the other factors that increase your heart-disease risk, hormonal changes concern the majority of women (54 percent). To better understand how hormonal changes throughout your life affect your heart, take a look at the below infographic.
No matter your age or stage in life, add heart health to your HCP convo list now.
Not sure how to get the conversation started? Here are heart health questions you should ask during health appointments.
Want more heart health information? Check out these resources from HealthyWomen.
Heart Health Basics
What Is Heart Disease?
Preventing Cardiovascular Disease: What Every Woman Needs to Know
Take Charge Of Your Heart Health. It Could Save Your Life.
Heart Disease: All Your Questions Answered
Heart Awareness 101
Heart Health Questions You Should Ask During Health Appointments
What Puts Your Heart At Risk?
Your Risk for Heart Disease
Diabetes and Heart Attack Risk: What's the Connection?
Did You Know Heart Disease Affects Women of Color Differently?
Effectively Managing Stress Is Good for Your Heart Health
Signs There's Something Wrong With Your Heart
Signs Your Heartburn Is Serious
Am I Having a Heart Attack?
How Women's Heart Attack Symptoms Are Different Than Men's
Real Stories About Heart Health From Real Women
I Thought I Had the Flu but I Actually Had a Heart Failure
I Lived a Healthy Life, but I Had a Heart Attack
I Thought I Had a Pinched Nerve, but I Was Really Having a Heart Attack
I Had a Heart Attack Two Weeks After Giving Birth
Despite Multiple Misdiagnoses, I'm Living Life With a Joyful Heart