The whirlwind of the holidays is almost done. As you look at the red bows and ribbons, I challenge you to put a new emphasis on them. The gift of life and health. Think about each woman who is special in your life.
I bring to your attention a problem that is magnified because we arent as aware as we need to be. Symptoms can be very different and often ignored and traditional treatments can have radically different outcomes. What is this problem that is the No. 1 killer of women?
If you answered cardiovascular disease (heart attacks and strokes), you are one in eight women who understands this vital piece of information.
Based on an American Heart Association survey, 13 percent of women in America correctly identified this to be our greatest health threat. The reality is more than one in three women have some form of cardiovascular disease. According to American Heart Association, in 2006, heart attacks and strokes killed 432,709 women. That compares to all cancers combined killing 269,819 women. To put it in perspective, in 2006, breast cancer killed fewer than one-tenth of that number. Heart disease is attributable to one of four deaths, compared to breast cancer killing one in 35. My point is not to diminish the extent of breast cancer but to question how we can keep ignoring a disease that impacts so many of us.
When we review diagnostics and treatment procedures, more gaps between gender are evident, according to the Womens Heart Foundation. Frequency and response to evaluation and surgical techniques can be very different stress tests, medications, angiography or surgical intervention. Bottom line, regardless of age, when a woman has a heart attack, she is more likely to die than a man. In fact, the chance of death is 1.7 times that of a man.
In our community, one of every four deaths is caused by heart attack or stroke.
A National Institutes of Health study found that 95 percent of women experiencing a heart attack noted they had new or more pronounced symptoms an entire month before experiencing their heart attack. The most common symptoms were unusual fatigue (70 percent), sleep disturbance (48 percent) and shortness of breath (42 percent). I know what woman hasnt had these symptoms? But realize that the symptoms are often different for women compared to men a womans heart attack is not necessarily accompanied by chest pain. The point is to take note and take action.
The important news is: 1) you are no longer ignorant of this major issue, and 2) you can do something to prevent heart disease for yourself and those other special women.
Another difference is that women are more responsive to specific lifestyle changes for prevention of cardiovascular disease. For women, in addition to the changes that work for both men and women, there are lifestyle changes that are more gender-specific and involve cigarette smoke (including secondhand), stress or depression, physical inactivity, food choices and metabolic syndrome (abdominal fat along with elevated blood pressure, blood sugar and triglycerides).
email@example.com or 247-4355. Wendy Rice is family and consumer science agent for the La Plata County Extension Office.