According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood InstituteIn the United States, 1 in 4 women dies from heart disease. In fact, coronary heart disease (CHD)—the most common type of heart disease—is the #1 killer of both men and women in the United States. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque can harden or rupture (break open).
Hardened plaque narrows the coronary arteries and reduces the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the heart. This can cause chest pain or discomfort called angina. If the plaque ruptures, a blood clot can form on its surface. A large blood clot can mostly or completely block blood flow through a coronary artery. This is the most common cause of a heart attack. Over time, ruptured plaque also hardens and narrows the coronary arteries.
Preventive Measures when considering your Heart Health…
- Encourage your patient to stop smoking. It is tougher to recover from a heart attack or stroke or to live with chronic heart disease when cigarette smoking is involved.
- Reduce blood cholesterol
- Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week
- Eat heart-healthy:Food choices such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight: A BMI number of 25 and higher are associated with higher blood fats, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Men are considered overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches (101.6 centimeters, or cm)
- Women are overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (88.9 cm)
- Weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 5 to 10 percent can help decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Black women suffer from heart disease at a rate twice as high as those among white women. Some of the factors that contribute to this disparity include higher rates of overweight and obesity, higher rates of elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure and limited awareness of our elevated risks. In addition to having high heart disease rates, Black women die from heart disease more often than all other Americans.
Black women are more likely to be overweight or obese, more likely to be physically inactive, and more likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels – all risk factors for heart disease. Black women also need to know that women often experience heart attack symptoms that are different from those that occur in men. Although chest pain is the symptom most commonly associated with a heart attack, women may have chest pain that is not the most prominent or troubling symptom or may not experience chest pain at all.
Women are more likely to experience other, less common warning signs of heart attack including:
- Atypical chest pain (pain that is sharp and temporary),
- Stomach, back, or arm pain
- Nausea or dizziness (without chest pain).
- Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing (without chest pain).
- Unexplained anxiety, weakness or fatigue.
- Palpitations, cold sweat or paleness.
We’re all at risk for heart disease and stroke. People of all ages, genders, races, and ethnicities are affected. However, certain groups—including African Americans and older individuals are at higher risk than others.