Along with the coldest of weather, February brings many amazing holidays and celebrations. For those of you that didn’t know, February is American Heart Month, a time to spread awareness about Heart Disease and how one can prevent it. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet most women don’t view heart disease as a health threat. “Cardiovascular diseases and stroke cause 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every 80 seconds.” But today in honor of American Heart Month and all the wonderful women out there- we’ll be sharing four facts you may not have known about heart disease and women!

1. Heart disease symptoms in men may be different than in women.
When we think of heart disease, we often think of chest-clutching pain. This does frequently happen and should be taken seriously, but chest pain is not the only symptom, especially in women. In fact, some women may have a heart attack without any chest pain at all. Out of those who have had heart attacks, only about 1 in 8 women reported chest pain. Many instead feel intense shortness of breath and mistake it for something else. It’s so common, women often make it to the ER after the heart damage because of the subtilty of their symptoms.

Some of these subtle, but common symptoms include:
Shortness of breath
Pain in one or both arms
Abdominal discomfort

When asked, only 65 percent of women said the first thing they would do if they thought they were having a heart attack was to call 9-1-1. If you find yourself experiencing any of these symptoms or think you’re having a heart attack, please do not downplay your symptoms, and instead, seek help.

2. Women naturally have more risk factors.
Certain diseases such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary disease are specific to women, yet they can dramatically increase your chance of heart disease. In addition, mental stress, high blood pressure from pregnancy and a declining estrogen from menopause may also increase your risk.

3. Women have a larger chance of being misdiagnosed.
Since symptoms can be more subtle in women, heart attacks are sometimes misdiagnosed, especially if a physician is looking strictly for “typical symptoms.”When it comes to treatment, angiography, angioplasty, and coronary bypass surgery are sometimes more difficult due to women having smaller and lighter coronary arteries.

4. Women age 45 and younger are more likely than men to die within a year of their first heart attack.
After a heart attack, women are at a larger risk for developing a blood clot which sometimes leads to another heart attack. Some believe this is because women don’t always receive proper medications after their first heart attack, so they aren’t as likely to prevent blood clotting.

So what can we do about all this? Well for starters, keep up on healthy habits. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and not smoking will do wonders for keeping both you and your heart healthy. Furthermore, be aware when taking prescribed medications such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners, aspirin, etc. and check up on your blood pressure regularly.