It causes chest discomfort, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and cold sweats. It leads to strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Each year it takes the lives of more than 600,000 people in the United States.

It’s heart disease–and it’s the leading cause of death for American women.

Many women don’t know this, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many associate heart disease with overweight, middle-aged men. They consider heart disease a “man’s disease,” not realizing that it affects people of all ages, races and genders.

This can cause them to ignore symptoms, delay screenings and ultimately put themselves at risk.

Thankfully, there are plenty of groups working to educate and inform women of the causes, symptoms and risk factors associated with heart disease.

After all, an ounce of understanding is worth a pound of knowledge. And knowledge is power–to prevent and prosper.

Here’s a look at seven things most people don’t know about heart disease (but definitely should):

1. Only one in five women see heart disease as their greatest threat

Breast cancer. Being overweight. Diabetes. Finding time to exercise.

These are the health concerns most commonly cited by women as their biggest concerns. Sadly, heart disease rarely makes the list, according to the American Heart Association.

2. 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors

If this percentage seems high to you, consider the following information from the AHA: Birth control pills, smoking, eating a less-than-healthy diet and leading a sedentary life style are all risk factors that can lead to heart disease.

3. The hips don’t lie

According to the Heart Foundation, a waist measurement of more than 80 cm could indicate an unhealthy level of internal fat deposits surrounding the heart, liver, digestive organs and kidneys. All of which can lead to an increase risk of heart disease and stroke.

In fact, it has been reported that the size of your waist is more important than your weight in predicting heart disease.

4. Heart screenings should start in your 20’s

Heart disease can begin to develop when you’re only two decades into your life, which is why doctors recommend screenings when you’re in your 20s. Unfortunately, the majority of women don’t know this, which is why they wait until their 30s to undergo screenings.

5. Symptoms are different in women and men

When men have heart disease, the symptoms tend to be pretty pronounced–pain in the left side of the chest, radiating arm pain, significant jaw pain. Women, on the other hand, often have more subtle symptoms such as shortness of breath, indigestion or back pain.

6. Sometimes there are no symptoms

This might be the most frightening fact of all. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly two-thirds of women who lose their lives to coronary heart disease have no symptoms at all, making regular screenings more important than ever.

7. Heart disease is often preventable

Now the good news: 80 percent of the time, the onset of heart disease can be prevented–if you’re willing to make important lifestyle changes. The American Heart Association says that eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, getting rid of the cigarettes and seeing your doctor on a regular basis can help prevent heart disease.

Care for your heart, care for yourself

Knowledge is power. And the more you know about heart disease, its symptoms and its risk factors, the more power you have to take the steps necessary to care for your heart–and yourself. 

So don’t delay. Keep reading. Live a healthy lifestyle. See your doctor. And keep your heart healthy. 

Concerned about your heart health? Join us for our FREE Red Wine, Chocolate & Heart Health Event on Thursday, February 8 at 4 PM – 7 PM! Check out our Facebook event for more info.

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