According to the American Heart Association, women are at higher risk than men for heart disease and conditions associated with heart disease. It’s the number one cause of death of women across the United States, but many still believe it’s a “man’s illness.”
It’s no surprise that when it comes to heart health, many women don’t know the signs or skip the life-saving exams that could diagnose heart disease. Stay healthy by knowing the top six heart health mistakes many women might be making.
1. Skipping blood pressure screenings
Too many women neglect their preventive health exams, including routine blood pressure screenings. High blood pressure, also called “the silent disease,” affects 76.4 million adults in the U.S. What’s even more surprising is that over 20% of people don’t even know they have high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack.
Take advantage of your annual well-woman visits and other preventive health screenings covered under your plan to prevent high blood pressure.
Bonus: Check out our other post on how seeing your eye doctor can keep your heart healthy.
2. Overlooking heart attack symptoms
Did you know that women can have different symptoms for heart attacks than men? In fact, women are more likely to have heart attack symptoms unrelated to chest pain.
The American Heart Association reports that “women often chalk up the symptoms [of a heart attack] to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.”
Shortness of breath, lightheadedness or dizziness, and nausea or vomiting can all be symptoms of a heart attack in women — unaccompanied by chest pain.
3. Yo-yo dieting
Yo-yo dieting, repeatedly losing and regaining weight, has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease.
A recent study concluded that women with normal weight who engage in “yo-yo dieting” are 3.5 times more likely to die from sudden cardiac arrest and 66 percent more likely to die from coronary artery disease.
Although this doesn’t mean that losing and gaining weight causes heart disease, it does suggest that the likelihood of heart disease may increase.
4. Eating too much sugar
According to the Mayo Clinic, women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart disease than men. It’s important to monitor your sugar intake and cut down on added sugars. This reduces the chance of developing diabetes as you age.
How much sugar is it safe to consume? The American Heart Association recommends that women consume “no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar.”
5. Ignoring risk factors
Women face several unique heart disease risks. Pregnancy and menopause can increase blood pressure in some women, while diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy “can increase women’s long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and increase the risk of development of heart disease.”
Post-pregnant or postmenopausal women can help prevent heart disease by exercising, seeing their primary care doctors, and regularly taking medications to manage diabetes or high blood pressure.
6. Not exercising enough
Only 20% of people get the recommended amount of heart-healthy exercise. But exercise is a simple way to help prevent heart disease and other heart-related problems.
According to WomensHealth.gov, women should aim for:
- 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Or, 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Or, a combination of moderate and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- And, muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days
Want to stay heart-healthy as you age? Continue to exercise and stay up to date on your preventive health and heart screenings. Also, remember to talk to your doctor about potential risk factors for heart disease.