As with pretty much any disease, there are many myths about heart disease, especially heart disease in women. Incorrect information can do as much harm as no information at all. Barriers to better heart health in women include:
- incorrect and mixed messages from the media,
- the tendency in the general public and among health care providers to underestimate the problem of heart disease in women,
- and our personal lack of knowledge.
Knowledge empowers us to be our own best health advocates. It also gives us a strong basis to work as true treatment partners with our doctors in a collaborative way with our doctors laying out all of our options and making decisions WITH us, not FOR us. Thus, it’s important to separate myth from truth. Below are seven myths about heart disease in women, along with the truth. I hope you’ll join me in learning and helping to educate others so we can work to reduce the number of deaths from heart disease among women.
Myth #1: Men need to be concerned with heart disease. It’s breast cancer that’s life-threatening to women.
Truth: One in 31 American women lose their lives to breast cancer each year. One in** three** lost their lives to heart disease.** Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the United States**.
Myth #2: Estrogen protects women from heart attacks.
Truth: Estrogen has not been shown to protect women from heart attack, BUT the loss of natural estrogen my contribute to heart attack risk as we age.
Myth #3: Women aren’t at risk for heart attack before menopause.
Truth: Among women ages 25- to 44-years-old, heart disease is the third most common cause of death.
Myth #4: Both women and men receive the same treatment for heart disease.
Truth: Anyone arriving at the hospital with heart attack symptoms should have an electrocardiogram (EKG) within 10 minutes of arrival. Women are less likely to get an EKG that quickly and are less likely to be treated by a cardiologist while in the hospital.
Myth #5: Current heart disease research applies to women and men equally.
Truth: According to the Society for Cardiac Angiography and Interventions (SCAI), women make up only 20 to 25% of the participants in most heart disease clinical trials.
Myth #6: Heart disease doesn’t affect women who are physically fit.
Truth: Being physically fit helps, but other factors including family history, eating habits, smoking, and high cholesterol can counterbalance physical fitness and other healthy habits. The American Heart Association recommends having cholesterol levels checked beginning at the age of 20, and earlier for those with a family history of heart disease.
Myth #6: “I don’t need to worry because I’m not having any symptoms.”
Truth: In women who die suddenly from heart disease, 64% have no previous symptoms.
Myth #7: “Heart disease runs in my family, so I can’t do anything about it.”
Truth: Women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk than those without the family history, but creating an action plan to keep our hearts healthy can make an enormous difference.
_More Helpful Information: _
- Five Easy Ways to Help Your Heart
- Signs of Heart Attack in Women
- Healthier Habits to Prevent Heart Events
Heart Condition Centers. “Myths About Women and Heart Disease.” SecondsCount.org. October 31, 2013.
Go Red For Women Editors. “Common Myths About Heart Disease.” GoRedForWomen.org. Accessed April 17, 2015.
From my heart to yours,
Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation’s Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society. Teri can be found on her website, and blog, Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Google+.