Carrie Fisher and Women’s Heart Health

As most people know, Carrie Fisher died yesterday after a severe heart attack.  It was a loss of another great actor/actress during this rough 2016.  However, it also emphasizes the importance of heart disease.

When some people think of women’s health, they think of breast cancer.  While cancer does kill many women (4 out of 10 women who die between ages 45 and 64 die of cancer), more women die of heart disease.  More than 1 in 3 women are living with heart disease, and many don’t even know they have it.  Heart attacks tend to increase about 10 years after menopause, but the exact reason why is not known.

Heart disease is now the number one killer of women.  Every minute, about one woman dies from complications of heart disease such: stroke, heart attack, or sudden cardiac arrest (when the heart’s electrical system stops working and can no longer pump blood properly.)  About 2/3rds of women who suddenly die from heart disease have no previous symptoms.

The classic symptoms of a heart attack are: burning pain, shortness of breath, weakness, fluctuating feelings in the chest or palpitations, and pain down the left arm.  However, these symptoms are more common in males.  Women can have more unusual symptoms.  They might feel discomfort/pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, or right arm.  Other symptoms include: being tired, lightheaded, nausea and/or vomiting, and increased sweating.  These symptoms may look like another condition.  Fatigue and nausea could be the flu; jaw pain could be because of TMJ (temporomandibular joint) pain, and sweating could be due to a hot flash.  If the symptoms get worse with exercise, this can be a good reason to suspect heart disease.

The good news is that there has been a decline in deaths from heart disease since the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign began a decade ago.  Due to increased awareness, 1/3 fewer women have died from heart disease.

Check for yourself – can you identify the signs of a heart attack?

References: 

Carrie Fisher’s Death Puts Spotlight on Women’s Heart Disease

Heart Attack Symptoms in Women

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