Each February, the American Heart Association raises awareness for women’s heart health with their Go Red For Women campaign. Accounting for more deaths than all cancers combined, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Despite this sobering statistic, many women continue to underestimate their risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. Awareness for this disease is pivotal. It is important that young women of all background have the facts on heart disease and their own heart health. Read on to find out ten facts on heart disease every woman needs to know.

Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America

It is responsible for the deaths of 1 in 3 women in America, meaning that every 80 seconds, a woman in the United States dies from heart disease related complications.

The symptoms in women are different than the symptoms in men

While men tend to experience a crushing pain in the center of their chest, Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, says it is more common for women to experience “shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.” Women may also experience pain in the arms, jaw, neck, or back, as well as nausea and vomiting.

Your risk doesn’t always go away if you are fit

Many women believe that if they are physically active, they do not have to worry about heart disease. This is not true. Women who are at a healthy weight can still have high cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease.

Heart disease kills more women than men

While typically associated with men’s health, more women die from heart disease each year compared to men. One explanation for this is the fact that diabetes and smoking both increase the risk of heart disease in women more so than it does for men.

Heart disease can and does affect younger women

Younger women may believe they are not at risk for heart disease because it is a disease associated with older women and men. This is not true. In fact, your risk for heart disease increases 20% if you are a young woman who smokes and takes birth control pills. Unhealthy habits early in life also lead to a higher risk of heart disease down the road.

Heart disease is preventable

While certain risk factors for disease cannot be prevented, making certain life style changes can help lower your risk for stroke and heart attack. These include not smoking, managing your blood sugar and blood sugar, lowering your cholesterol, keeping active and fit, and maintaining a healthy diet.

Family history doesn’t determine your own

Knowing your hereditary risk of heart disease is critical. This allows you to make a plan with your doctor that reduces or eliminates life style centered risk factors.

African American women are disproportionately affected by heart disease

Your risk for heart disease increases as an African American woman. Heart disease kills 50,000 African American women annually. 49% of African American women over the age of 20 have heart disease. This is partly credited to the fact diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease are all risk factors for heart disease that are highly seen in African Americans. Additionally, scientists have found African Americans may carry a gene that makes them more sensitive to the effects of salt and ultimately makes it easier for their blood pressure to rise from eating foods high in salt.

Knowing your numbers is key

Scheduling a doctor’s appointment to check your cholesterol levels and blood pressure as well as to assess the need for medication can reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Awareness is key to prevention

Only 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is the greatest threat to her health. It is important to inform women of their risk and the steps they can take to lower their chance for heart attack and stroke. Support and join the American Heart Association during the month of February by wearing red, checking your numbers, and spreading information to the women in your life.

Alana B
FFL Contributor
Alana is an undergraduate student at Washington State University studying communications. She aspires to work in either journalism or communications and aims to empower young women to feel confident in sharing their political views. Her favorite things include Jesus, capitalism, politics, yoga, and traveling.

Read more articles