Common Myths for Women And Heart Disease

One of the biggest misconceptions about heart disease is that it’s mostly men who have them. The fact is, heart attacks kill more women than ALL cancers combined … and that includes breast cancer, which many think is the number one health risk for females.

Myth: Heart disease is for men, and cancer is the biggest threat for women.

Fact: Heart disease is a killer that strikes more women than men, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. While one in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, heart disease claims the lives of one in three. That’s roughly one death each minute.


Myth: Heart disease is for old people.

Fact: Heart disease affects women of all ages.  For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. Also, while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. Even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.


Myth: Heart disease does not affect women who are physically fit.

Fact: Even if you are a yoga-loving, marathon-running workout fiend, your risk for heart disease is not eliminated altogether. Factors like cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance your other healthy habits. You can be thin and have high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. Also, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.

Myth: Heart disease doesn’t run in my family, so I’m okay.

Fact: Although family history of heart disease does increase the risks of developing the disease.  But many women without any family history have heart attacks or heart problems. There are other factors that may increase the risks including:

  • high blood pressure
  • high LDL cholesterol / low HDL cholesterol
  • diabetes
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • physical inactivity
  • stress


Myth: I don’t have any symptoms. I feel fine.

Fact: Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because these symptoms vary greatly between men and women, they are often misunderstood. Media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is sudden, extreme chest pain. The reality is women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.


Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there is nothing I can do about it.

Fact: Yes, you can!  You can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease if you have the information you need, know the questions to ask your physician, and commit to making heart-smart changes to your lifestyle. Experts estimate that up to 80% of heart disease is preventable.

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