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Pathology

Robert R. Cawley, D.O.

Dover, NH 03802

Education & Training

Board Certification

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11/05/2019

3 Myths About Women's Heart Health

Knowing the truth about your risk of heart disease is an important step to better health. Learn the facts behind some common women’s heart health myths to help you identify warning signs and prevent heart attack and stroke.

MYTH #1 - HEART DISEASE ONLY AFFECTS MEN

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States. In fact, while the death rate for men is declining, it is rising for women. A lack of awareness of the risks and insufficient medical care are two contributing factors to this disparity. According to an American Heart Association survey, only 53% of women said they would call 911 if they thought they were having a heart attack.

“Continuing to raise awareness about the very real risk of heart disease among women is crucial to turning these statistics around,” says Dr. Whitney Coppolino of Wentworth Health Partners Cardiology at Pease.

MYTH #2 – CHEST PAIN IS THE SIGN OF A HEART ATTACK

One reason heart disease in women is so dangerous is that women often fail to recognize the subtle symptoms of a heart attack and don’t seek medical treatment.

As with men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. But, women are more likely to experience some of the other common symptoms, which can often be confused for other medical conditions. These symptoms include:

  • Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  • Cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

“You know your body best,” says Dr. Coppolino. “Trust your instincts. If you think something is different or wrong, talk to your doctor.”

MYTH #3 – GENETICS IS THE BIGGEST RISK FACTOR FOR HEART DISEASE

It’s the size of your jeans more than your family’s genes that contributes to heart disease risk. Obesity causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems – all of which contribute to heart disease risk.

The best way for women to lower their risk is by leading a healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association promotes “Life’s Simple 7” and recommends the following:

  • Get active
  • Stop smoking
  • Manage blood pressure
  • Control blood sugar
  • Control cholesterol
  • Manage weight
  • Follow a healthy diet

“Living a healthy lifestyle is so important. If you can reduce your modifiable risk factors, such as your weight and blood pressure, and get them down to a normal range, your risk of heart disease can be similar to someone with no family history,” says Dr. Coppolino.

WOMEN’S HEART HEALTH PROGRAM

At Wentworth-Douglass, we are experts in caring for the unique cardiovascular health needs of women. Our Women’s Heart Health Program, in collaboration with the Massachusetts General Hospital Corrigan Women’s Heart Health Program, provides expert diagnosis and treatment for a wide range of heart conditions specific to women. The program is led by Dr. Coppolino, who completed a fellowship in women’s heart health at Mass General.

Men and women experience heart disease in different ways, so it’s important to work with a cardiac care team that is familiar with treating women. Whether your condition is simple or complex, we’re here to develop a plan that is right for you – so you can live a happy, heart-healthy life.

For more information, contact Wentworth Health Partners Cardiology at Pease at (603) 610-8070. 

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