In the U.S., 267,000 women die from heart attacks every year, six times as many as die from breast cancer. More and more, these women are young.
“Women are most susceptible after the age of 65, but heart attack can occur at any age,” says Karol Watson, M.D., co-director of the Program in Preventive Cardiology at UCLA. Watson says that in the last couple of years, a disturbing trend seems to have emerged. As rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes climb, the number of women ages 35-44 having heart attacks is also on the rise.
So Watson – who chairs the scientific advisory council of WomenHeart, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting women’s heart health – wants us gals to have a conversation with our doctors. First, talk about risk factors like family history, age and ethnicity. Spend a little time discussing proper diet, weight and physical activity. And finally, ask whether it might be appropriate for you to carry aspirin.
If your doctor says it’s right for you, crushing or chewing a full-strength aspirin at the first sign of heart attack could help stop blood from clotting and save heart muscle. “It could be life-saving,” Watson says, reducing your chances of dying by as much as 25%.
The classic sign of heart attack is excruciating pain in the chest that comes on with exertion – either physical or emotional – and goes away with rest. But women might experience different symptoms. These could include pain in the shoulders, neck, back, jaw or arms, dizziness, nausea, sweating or difficulty breathing, or “any symptom from your navel to your nose that comes on with exertion and goes away with rest,” says Watson.
To help women have that aspirin on hand, WomenHeart offers a cute little keychain pill carrier. The $5 price tag goes to benefit WomenHeart, and for every keychain sold, Bayer (makers of aspirin) will donate an additional $5. Donations go to promote early detection, and proper diagnosis and treatment of women’s heart disease. Www.WomenHeart.org.