Heart disease ranks as number one killer of women

HASTINGS, Neb. (KSNB) - Heart disease is often called a man's disease, but it takes the lives of just as many women as it does men in the United States. So this heart month, it is important for women to know the facts too.

Nearly 1 in 4 women will die from heart disease, but the Center for Disease Control says only about half of women recognize it as their number one killer. Doctors said there is a lot people can do to prevent it.

“Mostly lifestyle, about 80% of heart disease is preventable,” Nebraska Heart Institute PA-C Brianna Bankson said. “The biggest thing for women is knowing your risk factors, knowing your numbers. The biggest risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, inactivity, obesity so having a BMI over 30.”

Doctors at the Nebraska Heart Institute in Hastings said women tend to show different signs than men when they are having heart issues. So sometimes they are dismissed as just being tired or sick.

Two thirds of women who die suddenly of a coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. In Nebraska, it can be common for people to not go in for a check up until it is too late.

“I think it's prevalent here,” Bankson said. “We kind of have that meat and potatoes kind of culture. The farmers who are tough and don't always think they need to go in and get checked up every year because they feel fine and feel healthy and those kind of things sneak up on them.”

Women tend to show signs of heart disease later than men because estrogen protects women's hearts when they are younger, but post-menopause it is a major risk.

“Meet with your doctor, find out what your risk factors are and work on individual specific things,” Bankson said. “As far as if you're not active, you're more sedentary, you have a desk job and you go home and sit on the couch getting out there and doing more physical activity.”

Having a proper diet, moderate exercise, and being aware of genetic and age related risks are key to staying healthy.

Some signs of heart problems include nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, tightness or pressure near the chest, or pain in both arms. It is important for men and women to get yearly check ups for their heart health.