4 myths about heart disease busted

Monday marks the beginning of Women’s Health Week

Today marks the start of Women’s Health Week.

“Prioritizing your health — both physical and mental — has never been more important,” the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services wrote on the Office of Women’s Health’s website. “Over the past few years, many women have put off taking care of their general health and wellness needs. They have adjusted their daily routines, including the way they connect with family and friends. The combination has led to serious health problems for some women.”

Did you know that 1 in 5 women in America die from heart disease per year? When it comes to heart disease, many dangerous myths surround the topic.

Here are some of the most common myths and why they’re wrong.

1. Heart disease affects men more than women

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is almost as prevalent in women as men. Heart disease, not breast cancer, is the leading cause of death in women.

Within five years of a heart attack, women are 20% more likely to face heart failure or death compared to their male counterparts. Women carry more unique risk factors for heart disease than men, like endometriosis, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, according to Cleveland Clinic.

2. Young, healthy women aren’t at risk

Around 1 in 16 women over age 20 are affected by heart disease, according to the CDC. While women over 50 face an increased risk after menopause, heart disease affects women of all ages.

A specific type of heart disease called SCAD — spontaneous coronary artery dissection— more commonly affects young women. Pregnant women, young mothers, female athletes who perform intense exercises and young women who do not have the normal risk of heart disease face the risk of SCAD, according to UCI Health.

“Just as many women have heart attacks as men, and up to 25% to 30% of those cases can be due to SCAD,” UCI Health interventional cardiologist Jin K. Kim, M.D., Ph.D., said.

If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, smoke or high blood pressure as a side effect to birth control, you are at a greater risk for heart disease, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

3. ‘I don’t feel a tightness in the chest’

Chest pain is considered one of the telltale signs of an oncoming heart attack. However, women face different symptoms that aren’t related to chest pain. In fact, the list of top symptoms of heart attacks in women do not include chest pain. Here are some of the most common symptoms during a heart attack, according to Harvard Health:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Cold sweat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Weak/heavy arms

4. If I have a genetic risk for heart disease, I can’t avoid it

Lifestyle factors play a larger role in heart disease than heredity, according to Northside Hospital’s Cardiovascular Institute. Changing your lifestyle by incorporating exercise, healthy eating habits and avoiding smoking or excessive drinking reduces your risk of heart attack by more than 50%. Almost 90% of all heart disease cases can be prevented. There are plenty of strategies you can include in your lifestyle to reduce your risk of heart disease.

What you can do

Get your heart checked today. MinuteClinic locations inside select CVS Pharmacy stores are offering no-cost heart health screenings for both women and men until May 14. At MinuteClinic, health professionals will look at your medical and family histories, take your blood pressure, and a blood test that will check your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.

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