People often think of heart disease as a health problem for men, when in fact, one in four women die from heart disease each year, making it the leading cause of death for women in the United States. To increase awareness around heart disease in women, every February is American Heart Month where we “Go Red for Women.”
Heart disease is an umbrella term referring to many different factors and health conditions that all put increased stress on the heart. Having a family history of heart disease can increase your risk of having underlying heart disease. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, depression, stress, being sedentary, and having extra weight. To learn more about risk factors and prevention, especially for heart failure patients and their caretakers, visit mauihealth.org/heart and click on “patient education.”
What makes heart disease dangerous is that we often don’t feel any symptoms, especially at the beginning. Because we don’t feel sick (like we might with some conditions) we might not go to the doctor. If we don’t go to the doctor, these conditions can go undiagnosed for years. When you have years of mild, uncontrolled stress on your heart, it can lead to complications such as strokes and heart attacks. Those who do have symptoms may have chest pain or tightness, frequent headaches, or blurred vision. Additional symptoms may include nausea, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
Sometimes it is hard to make time for yourself and get to the doctor, but it is so important! Most of the causes of heart disease can be treated to reduce the risks of strokes and heart attacks, especially if you catch it early. So if you’re concerned about your risk, or if you think you may be having symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup.