February is National Heart Health Month so this is the perfect time to talk about what women can do to protect themselves against their number one health threat. That’s right…heart disease is the leading cause of death in women in North America. One in three women in their lifetime will develop heart disease, but sadly the odds are approaching one in two. Every minute a woman dies of heart disease. This could be you, your mother, your sister, or your friend. Cardiovascular disease in women has been understudied, under-diagnosed and largely ignored by both women and their doctors. There are many myths and misconceptions that prevail about heart disease in women. Here are just a few:
Myth: Heart disease is only an issue for elderly women.
Fact: While heart disease is the chief killer of women over the age of 65, it is also the second-leading cause of death in women ages 45 to 64 and the third-leading cause of death in women 25 to 44.
Myth: Women are more likely to survive a heart attack than men.
Fact: Women are twice as likely as men to die after suffering a heart attack. The unfortunate reality is that women delay getting treatment, are treated less aggressively after a heart attack and are less likely to be given life-saving medications or referrals to
Myth: Risk factors for heart disease are the same in women as in men.
Fact: Certain conditions are more likely to cause heart disease in women than in men, such as metabolic syndrome and menopause. Stress and lack of sleep also appear more likely to damage women’s hearts.
Myth: Sex increases the risk of heart attack.
Fact: It is commonly thought that sex is a major trigger for heart attacks, yet only one percent of heart attacks are brought on by sexual activity.
Myth: Hormone replacement therapy protects against heart disease.
Fact: Menopausal women who take estrogen replacement therapy actually may be at increased risk for heart disease.