According to the American Heart Association and what I’ve seen in practice, there is an increase in heart disease in women under 55. Heart disease remains the number one killer of women, with about one in 16 women aged 20 and older having coronary heart disease and one in five women dying from heart disease. 

At MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute, we help patients determine their risks for cardiovascular disease and provide them with valuable preventive strategies. We also provide individualized screening programs to measure risks for heart attack.

Despite the work in increasing awareness over the years, only about 56% of women recognize that heart disease is their number one killer.

Many times, women won’t show symptoms of having heart disease until they have a major cardiovascular event, like a heart attack. One reason women don’t recognize the signs of having a heart attack is because the symptoms can come on gradually and present themselves differently than in men.

Some of the most common heart attack symptoms for women include:

  • Chest pain that feels like tightness or pressure
  • Extreme or unusual fatigue
  • Throat and jaw pain
  • Pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen that could feel like indigestion or heartburn
  • Pain, discomfort, or a tingling sensation in one or both arms
  • Upper back pain that may have a burning, tingling, or pressure-like feeling
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting

With Orange Coast Medical Center being a Cardiac Receiving Center, we work closely with our Emergency Department, helping save the lives of people experiencing a heart attack. Healthgrades recently recognized MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center as a Five-Star Recipient for treatment of heart attacks, and by U.S. News & World Report as a ‘High-Performing Hospital for heart attack, heart failure, aortic valve surgery, and heart bypass surgery because of our expertise when it comes to heart care.

Although being able to eliminate the risk of heart disease may not be doable, there are steps to take to reduce the risk:

  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly
  • Quit smoking
  • Know your family history, like if you’re at risk for diabetes or obesity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats
  • Limit your alcohol intake
  • Manage stress levels
  • Get your cholesterol checked
  • Exercise regularly

I know we all live busy lives, and women tend to be caretakers of the entire family. This can lead to women putting their health and needs last. However, we need to take care of ourselves so that we can be there for our families and loved ones. Try to be aware of the symptoms and take the steps to live a heart healthy life. Maybe start by taking a heart risk assessment and scheduling a doctor’s appointment for yourself to discuss the results and ensure your heart is healthy.

Take our quiz to understand your heart risk.