If you think only older men have heart attacks, think again. Heart disease is a serious threat to people of all ages and genders, and women are actually far more likely to die from heart disease than they are from all forms of cancer combined. A shocking one in three women will succumb to heart disease; that’s approximately one death per minute.
As part of our observance of Heart Month, here are some more heart disease myths you may currently believe, along with the need-to-know truth:
Myth: Heart disease usually happens only to people in their 60s and 70s
Truth: Tell that to Meliah Jefferson, who was a young new mom when she had a heart attack at age 33. Or Julie Rickman, who had one at 44. Everyone is at risk. In fact, women of childbearing age need to know that the combination of birth control pills and smoking elevates heart disease risks by 20 percent. The American Heart Association (and common sense) urges you to never smoke (or stop if you already do), to maintain an active lifestyle, to eat a whole food diet rich in produce, low fat dairy (like our fabulously fermented kefir) and lean protein. You should also work to keep your stress levels down (we suggest yoga, if you’re able).
Myth: Fit women aren’t at risk of heart disease
Truth: “Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated,” the AHA says. For example, Emily Welbourn was in the best shape of her life when she had a stroke – in fact, she was in the process of running a 3.5-mile-race when it happened. You can be thin/fit/strong and have high cholesterol. If you have any family members with a history of high cholesterol or heart disease, especially if they are/were young, talk to your doctor.
Myth: You’re not at risk if you don’t have
Truth: Not true! AHA statistics reveal that 64 percent of women who experience sudden death due to coronary heart disease had no prior symptoms.
One of the reasons this myth persists is because women typically experience difference symptoms than men. Women don’t often have the chest-grabbing pain or even the pain radiating down one arm. More frequently, a woman will feel one or more of the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Back or jaw pain
- A heartburn-type of feeling
- Extreme fatigue
We’re not here to scare you, simply to inform and encourage you to take a proactive approach to your health! Small steps every day can have a big pay off down the road, so speak to a health care professional or doctor to find out what steps you can take individually to have the best chance at a long, heart-healthy life/
Learn more about protecting your heart or the heart of a woman close to you by visiting the AHA’s Go Red for Women website.