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Time to Get Smart About Heart Health

What women don’t know — or ignore — could kill them

Heart Health

Simon Winnall/Getty Images

Many women admit that the dreaded weigh-in at the doctor's office has led them to put off crucial appointments.

Women and their physicians “have a long way to go” to address the risk and symptoms of heart disease, and 35 percent of women between the ages of 50 and 60 don’t know it’s the No. 1 killer in the United States, according to a new study.

The survey of 1,011 women, conducted by the American College of Cardiology, spotlighted a clear problem: If you aren't aware of the seriousness of heart disease, you're less likely to spot the symptoms.

Forty-five percent of the respondents between the ages of 25 and 60 were unaware just how deadly heart disease is in America, according to the study. People of all ages can get the disease. Every year 1 in 4 deaths are linked to heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type is coronary artery disease, which can cause a heart attack. Among the symptoms are: 

  • chest pain or discomfort that doesn’t go away after a few minutes
  • pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck or back 
  • weakness, light-headedness, nausea or a cold sweat 
  • pain or discomfort in the arms or shoulder 
  • Shortness of breath

The study also asked the women if they ever canceled or postponed a doctor's appointment. Sixty-three percent said they did. Furthermore, 45 percent of all respondents said they delayed an appointment because they first wanted to lose weight.

“Campaigns should make CVD [cardiovascular disease] ‘real’ to U.S. women, countering stereotypes with facts and validated assessments,” the survey concluded.

The report noted that a majority of physicians surveyed did not mention heart disease among their top health concerns for women. This highlights the need to be vigilant, to ask your doctor about heart disease and to raise an alert about possible symptoms.