The American Heart Association estimates that 44 million women in the United States are affected by cardiovascular diseases. Wait! Isn’t it men who are at greater risk of heart disease?

The American Heart Association estimates that 44 million women in the United States are affected by cardiovascular diseases. Wait! Isn’t it men who are at greater risk of heart disease?

“Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a ‘man’s disease,’ around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States,” reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which tags heart disease as the leading cause of death for women.

What do women need to know?
— Heart disease is not just an issue for the elderly. Risk might increase with age, but factors such as using birth control pills, smoking, family history and a sedentary life can affect young people. However, women generally experience heart attacks at an older age than men.

— Women who are fit are not necessarily safe. “Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits,” shares AHA. Get cholesterol checked annually.  

— While there are telltale signs of heart disease, AHA cites 64 percent of women who die from coronary disease had no warning signs.

— A main symptom of a heart attack due to heart disease might be crushing weight on chest, but Cleveland Clinic points to subtler symptoms three to four weeks before a heart attack: dramatic fatigue, shortness of breath or sweating, and pain in neck, back or jaw.  

— Women have a higher lifetime risk than men of stroke due to heart disease.

— Women with heart disease are also likely to have diabetes, obesity, depression and other health concerns.

— Risk of heart disease is greater in Hispanic and African-American women, who often develop it earlier in life.

— AHA and other research organizations have yet to pinpoint accurately whether red wine decreases issues associated with heart disease, but it is clear that excessive drinking of alcohol exacerbates heart disease.

— Women who are overweight by at least 30 pounds have a great chance of developing heart disease.

On its site, goredforwomen.org, AHA offers ways women can avoid and combat heart disease.