One in four American women dies of heart disease every year. In 2004, nearly 60 percent more women died of cardiovascular disease (both heart disease and stroke) than from all cancers combined. Here's what you need to know now to prevent problems later.
What it is
Heart disease includes a number of problems affecting the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. Types of heart disease include:
- Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type and is the leading cause of heart attacks. When you have CAD, your arteries become hard and narrow. Blood has a hard time getting to the heart, so the heart does not get all the blood it needs. CAD can lead to:
- Angina—chest pain or discomfort that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes the pain is in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. It can also feel like indigestion (upset stomach). Angina is not a heart attack, but having angina means you are more likely to have a heart attack.
- Heart attack--occurs when an artery is severely or completely blocked, and the heart does not get the blood it needs for more than 20 minutes.
- Heart failure occurs when the heart is not able to pump blood through the body as well as it should. This means that other organs, which normally get blood from the heart, do not get enough blood. It does not mean that the heart stops. Signs of heart failure include:
- Shortness of breath (feeling like you can't get enough air)
- Swelling in feet, ankles, and legs
- Extreme tiredness
- Heart arrhythmias are changes in the beat of the heart. Most people have felt dizzy, faint, out of breath or had chest pains at one time. In general, these changes in heartbeat are harmless. As you get older, you are more likely to have arrhythmias. Don't panic if you have a few flutters or if your heart races once in a while. But if you have flutters and other symptoms such as dizziness or shortness of breath, call 911 right away.