Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States today, but the good news is that new knowledge, techniques, medications, and the promise of stem cell treatment of heart disease may knock it out of first place.
Historically we have thought of heart disease as a man’s disease, while most women have worried about breast cancer, uterine cancer, lung cancer, fearing tham as the major causes of female deaths. Their fears of heart disease as a major cause of death was for their husbands and the conscern that they would be left behind as widows. Tragically, many physicians and other health consultants had the same mistaken impressions … often leading to misdiagnosis and mistreatment which has too frequently lead to fatal results. The tragic fact is that heart disease kills more women than all the cancers put together. It is indeed the number one killer of women as well as men. In fact, after menapause it actually kills more women than men. This is in part due to that the diagnosis of heart disease is a greater challenge in women than in men because the symptoms are often different and harder to recognize, and partly because women are often not as vigorously treated following a heart attack as men are, 38 percent of women, apposed to 25 percent of men, will die within one year of their heart attack In addition, significantly more women than men die of stroke.
Men and women share most of the common risk factors for heart disease, including family genetic history for heart disease, age, diabetes, hypertension or high blood pressure, obesity, poor lifestyle choices like smoking or excessive drinking and chemical abuses. However, women also have some additional risk factors including menopausal changes. Add to these risk factors the facts that women do not get cardiovascular screening tests as often as men, nor do they as often get cutting-edge treatment techniques as their male counterparts. It is little wonder then that their heart disease incidence rate is higher and survival rate is lower than for men.
The most common cause of heart disease among both men and women is narrowing and blockage of the coronary arteries. The coronary arteries are the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart muscles itself. This is refered to as coronary artery disease and developes slowly over time. Coronary artery disease is the major reason people have heart attacks.
Since coronary artery disease developes over a period of time prevention is possible and important because two-thirds of people who have a heart attack fail to make a full recovery. The older a person gets, the more likely he or she is to get heart disease. People of all ages should be concerned about heart disease and start to take preventive measures at an early age, even during childhood. All people should take steps to prevent heart disease by practicing healthy lifestyle habits from childhood on. It is freightening to realize that childhood obesity and sedentary lifestyle is becoming epidemic in the United States.
Early treatment can limit heart damage when given as soon as possible after onset of a heart attack, preferably within one hour of the first symptoms. This golden hour is too often missed in women. The tragic fact is that one in three women dies of heart disease in the United States; almost twice as many women die of cardiovascular disease, both heart disease and stroke, than from all cancer deaths combined. Though both men and women have heart attacks, more women die from them.
For both men and women in America the major factors contributing to heart disease and death are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, family history, and age. Although you can't do much about genetics, you can take precautions early on if your family history shows a tendency toward cardiovascular disease. Lifestyle may be a greater factor in familial heart disease than genetics. You can make lifestyle changes to avoid many of the risk factors and even reduce the effect of genetics and age on your health.
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