6 Reasons Women Should Care About Their Heart Health

Females experience unique causes, symptoms, and outcomes. Here's what to know.

A stethoscope in the shape of a heart

Heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, causes 1 in 3 deaths, taking a woman’s life nearly every minute, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports.

Though heart disease also strikes men, women are more likely to die from the disease and experience unique causes, symptoms, and outcomes. What’s more, certain conditions appear to increase heart disease risk in women. These include preeclampsia and eclampsia, gestational diabetes, migraine headaches with aura, early onset menopause, and autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Despite this, a Women’s Heart Alliance survey of more than 1,000 women 25 to 60 years old found that 45 percent didn’t know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.

Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and Dr. Jennifer Haythe, a cardiologist specializing in cardiac health during pregnancy at the Center for Advanced Cardiac Care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, say women need to educate themselves to better protect their heart health. Here’s why:

1. Women are less inclined to call 911 when they think they may be experiencing heart attack symptoms.

A woman clutching her chest

2. Cardiovascular disease complicates up to 4 percent of pregnancies, and that number has been increasing. Preeclampsia is an independent predictor of developing cardiovascular disease later in life. Women who have had preeclampsia should be mindful of having their blood pressure, fasting glucose, and cholesterol checked annually.

A pregnant woman having her blood pressure taken

3. Women are less likely to be referred for cardiac rehabilitation after a heart attack.

A woman in a wheelchair learning how to use a hand weight

4. Women’s heart attack symptoms are often different from men’s. Women may experience shortness of breath, nausea, palpitations, jaw discomfort, or overwhelming fatigue, according to the AHA.

A woman grimacing and lowering her head to her hand

5. Women are less likely to receive bystander CPR in public than men (45 percent for men versus 39 percent for women). Learning hands-only CPR can help save a life. Visit handsonly.nyc to learn more.

A group of commuters walking

6. After the age of 65, hypertension (high blood pressure) is more common in women. Go for an annual physical and have your doctor check your blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors. The American College of Cardiology recommends a blood pressure target of 120/80 or lower.

A woman checking her blood pressure at home

For more information on Heart Month events, visit here.