When we think of heart failure, we immediately think of it as a male problem, but it is the number one killer among women. We may feel that cancer is the deadlier disease among women; however, research has shown that nearly 8.6 million women die annually, due to heart diseases. Of this:
- 4 million die of ischemic heart disease
- 3 million die from stroke every year
- 2 million die of inflammatory heart disease, hypertensive heart disease
Heart failure does not affect men and women in the same way, given the fact that women tend to avoid any unusual symptoms as any other pain. One of the main reasons women are less attentive to the heart failure signs are because it usually affects them about 10 years later than men. Lack of awareness in women about heart diseases or heart failure is less than compared to any other illness, which is also a leading cause of women not understanding or identifying the warning signs of heart failure.
Signs of heart failure in women:
- Unusual fatigue: Running a household, being busy with work and then getting tired is very normal, happens to all but if the fatigue is occurring in a dramatic way, you should watch out for the following:
- “Heavy” chest
- Having trouble sleeping after being exceptionally worn-out
- Basic activities like walking, making up the bed becomes very exhausting
- Chest pain/discomfort: The most common symptom of heart failure, however, every woman experiences it differently. The pain is not always on the left side, can be anywhere in the chest.
- Stomach pain: Sometimes, stomach pain is mistakenly taken as heartburn, acidity or flu. If the stomach pain is persistent or gets severe with time, you must refer to a doctor at the earliest.
- Sweating or shortness of breath: As age progresses, lack of exercise in women can cause shortness of breath but if this happens in certain situations it can signal heart failure:
- Breathlessness that worsens over time
- Stress sweat when there is no cause for stress
- Sudden sweating or shortness of breath when there is no exertion
- Pain in neck, jaw, back or arm(s): When there is a problem in your heart, the body triggers nerves not just in the chest area but you will feel the pain elsewhere. Pain in parts like neck, jaw, back indicates a heart failure in women; it does not necessarily occur only in the left side like it does in men. At times, when there is pain in these areas the origin is unknown or hard to point.
Taking care of yourself is the key to recover or reduce the chances of falling ill or being prone to any disease, you are never too young or old for taking care of your heart.
Keep in mind the following steps:
- Learn the warning signs
- Get active
- Control cholesterol
- Reduce blood sugar
- Manage blood pressure by managing your stress
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Eat better
- Stop smoking/drinking
- Know your family history