Heart disease is the number-one killer for both men and women in the U.S. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more women in the U.S. die from cardiovascular causes (like a heart attack or stroke) than from all forms of cancer combined.
When you think of women and men who have heart attacks, you might think of those in their 50s and older and that there's no way you could possibly be next.
Don't be that naïve.
According to a 2007 study that was published in the Journal of American College of Cardiology, there has been a rise in cardiovascular risk factors among young women.
What are some of the symptoms that many women experience if they're having a heart attack?
Typical symptoms in men include unbearable chest pains, shortness of breath and an increased heart rate. However, for women, heart attack symptoms are very different. You may experience jaw and neck pain, right arm pain, dizziness, nausea, sweating, unusual fatigue, pain in your abdomen, and shortness of breath.
Even if you don't have a family history of heart disease, you're a non-smoker, and your weight and eating habits are under control, you could still be at risk.
Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum joins HER Radio to share the startling facts on young women and heart disease, as well as why you should always be conscious of your heart health.
RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: May 7, 2015
Host: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
It's all about her. Her body. Her mind. Her wellness. Her sex. Her relationships. Her aging. Her beauty. It's Her Radio. Starring acclaimed entrepreneur and women's advocate Michelle King Robson and leading women's health expert, the doc who walks the talk, Dr. Pam Peeke.
DR PAM: Hi, I'm Dr. Pam Peeke. Michelle's off today. What is this thing with heart disease in women? Woman still are not getting it out there. Come on, women. But, even young women too.
Oh, good grief. So, today we're going to address this. Hop right into the mire here and try to clarify this relationship between heart disease and women because we do it differently. And our "go to" expert is Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, a wonderful colleague and friend now who resonates from New York City as an attending cardiologist and director of Women's Heart Health Lennox Hill Hospital in New York City and the author of Every Women's Guide to a Heart Healthy Life: Reduce the Effects of Stress, Promote Heart Health and Restore the Balance in Your Life.
Dr. Steinbaum, welcome to HER Radio.
DR STEINBAUM: Thank you so much for having me.
DR PAM: Well, I heard something wild Suzanne. I just have to jump in here. So, I heard some woman was on a call with, I think it was, you know, some cable network company out there and she was on with a representative because she was having massive problems with her cable network. And this person she said was rude to her and not nice to her and literally said that, she herself, the woman, was the one at fault and that they would actually call the police on her.
They were just accusing her of this and that. She got all upset on the phone and after hanging up from that rude agent and back and forth, whoever, the customer representative was, she just felt ill, she felt terrible. She felt so bad and she was so terrified, terrified that someone would call the police on her, all she was doing was talking on the phone. The next day she went into her doctor saying that, "I have felt terrible for the last 24 hours since that call." They did an EKG on her and guess what they found and they also did the blood work .
Dr. Suzanne: She had a heart attack.
DR PAM: She had one. She actually had one. Alright so, I'm going to use this as an example. What the heck is with women and heart attacks?
Dr. Suzanne: I was going to say, you know, this is my passion, this is my favorite topic and I really want all women to understand that heart disease is her number one health threat. 1 in 33 women will die of breast cancer, 1 in 3 will die of heart disease. We all really believe that breast cancer is our greatest risk, but that story that you just told, that kind of subtle "I don't feel well kind of thing", that's what heart disease often presents like in women and the reality is, that every single woman that has a heart, you're at risk for heart disease and paying attention to how you feel makes a huge difference in preventing this, from having that subtle heart attack like you just described.
DR PAM: And here she was, she didn't clasp her chest and fall to the ground the way you see on TV. Instead, she does it differently. Be specific about this Dr. Steinbaum. Tell us what really happens when a women is truly having an issue like this.
Dr. Suzanne: So, here's the deal, we often think of that classic, typical Hollywood heart attack. A man clutching his chest, sweating, blue in the face, you know, that's what a heart attack looks like, we think, in a man, but when we think about heart attacks in women, it's much more subtle. It's jaw pain, back pain, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting. Rosie O'Donnell recently did a documentary on her own heart attack and she kept saying, "It's hot, exhausted, pain, pale, puke. Hot, exhausted, pain, pale, puke" and she kept saying that over and over, so a women would really get it in her mind. So absolutely, it's that hot, exhausted, pain, pale, puke, but it's often times also that subtle shortness of breath, even flu-like symptoms.
About 2 weeks before a woman has a heart attack, there was one survey that showed, that women often have sleep disturbances, that overwhelming fatigue, there's a prodrome that often goes along with it and as I speak to women often, and I tell them this, I see everyone in the audience freaking out thinking that they're constantly having a heart attack. But the reality is that if we can't do our normal activities that we're used to doing every day, if all of a sudden it's just so hard and we're having these, maybe, subtle symptoms of a little shortness of breath, a little more fatigue than usual, it's worth going to see your doctor.
DR PAM: Well now, you know, Suzanne, I know a lot of young women out there in HER RadioLand here on RadioMD are rolling their eyes saying, "That's some 60-year-old's problem." Really? With all of that Red Bull we're sucking down, with the caffeine, the cigarettes, the drugs, the attention deficit meds, the stimulates, I mean, are we t-ing it up for young women? What's going on with young women and heart disease?
Dr. Suzanne: I really want to talk about this because I think that young women think that they can get away with this. You know in your 20s you kind of bum cigarettes off friends, you don't think it's going to make a difference. A little Red Bull here and there, it doesn't make a difference. Let's talk about the basics. If you're not eating healthy, if you're not exercising, if you're not sleeping enough, if you're not really managing your stress--all of those factors lead to an increase risk of heart disease and, in fact, studies are showing, women less than 55 years old, there's now an increased incidence in heart disease compared to men. And when we go back in time and we look, you know, why is this? How come this is happening? Guess what happened in 1984. Do you know?
DR PAM: Tell me. Tell me.
Dr. Suzanne: In 1984, when women entered the work force, just as much as men, that's when heart disease in women started increasing more than men and now we're seeing it in this younger age population, less than 55 years old, really women in the prime of their lives and part of this is because of this juggling act. This generation of women, we're told you can have it all, you can do everything, you can be fabulous, great and amazing, but you know what? Nobody gave us the handbook and nobody said, "This is how you do it," because as much as you can have it all, you have to take care of yourself. You have to sleep, you have to eat right, you have to exercise and you have to understand that if you don't put yourself first, you can't take care of anyone else.
DR PAM: There's absolutely no question about it. I love it. So, listen up young HER radio listeners out there and everyone, quite frankly. It's never too early. It's never too late. You've got to be on top of this your entire life. And your life style habits, as Dr. Steinbaum has said, really T this up for a destiny of either clean heart health or some real problems coming on up.
We're listening to Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum who is the author of Every Women's Guide to a Heart Healthy Life: Reduce the Effects of Stress, Promote Heart Health and Restore the Balance in Your Life. You've got to read this book. It's fabulous because what it has is a comprehensive guide to being able to understand how you live on a daily basis so that what you don't end up with a heart attack. And young ones, don't eye roll, start up right now. Clean it up like there's absolutely no tomorrow.
And Dr. Steinbaum's website is S as in Sam R as in Raymond S as in Sam heart. Those are her initials. SRSheart.com. Again, the book title, Every Women's Guide to a Heart Healthy Life. Dr. Steinbaum, we so thank you for being on HER Radio. Your words of wisdom we take to heart.
I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson. You're listening to HER Radio on RadioMD. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and stay well.