8 Heart Health Mistakes Women Make

  • Mature Caucasian woman holding hand to chest sitting on couch
    Are You Doing Right by Your Heart?
    More than 60% of women think breast cancer is their biggest health risk, when in truth, heart disease is six times more deadly for women than breast cancer. Heart disease is the number one killer for women in United States, though only 54% of women recognize this to be true. Understanding heart disease can be even more of a challenge for women because the risks and symptoms are different than those for men, and they’re more difficult to detect. Nearly two-thirds of women who die suddenly from a heart attack don’t experience any previous symptoms. That’s why it’s essential for women to better understand how heart disease affects them and avoid these common heart health mistakes.

  • Woman With Headache Holding Hand on Head
    1. Underestimating the Effects of Stress
    Life has its everyday stresses, but in a study of 82,000 women, researchers found that high levels of stress and stressful events made women 12 times more likely to develop heart disease. Stress triggers heart health risks like high blood pressure, unhealthy eating, smoking and overconsumption of alcohol. Stressful events like the death of a loved one or abuse can increase your heart disease risk even more. If you’re experiencing high levels of stress in your life, take extra care with your heart health. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and look for new ways to cope with stress, change your environment, and improve negative situations.

  • birth control pills and calendar
    2. Taking Birth Control Pills and Smoking
    You may know smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke is dangerous for your heart, but taking birth control pills when you’re regularly exposed to smoke greatly increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. This combination is especially risky if you are over 35. The good news is if you quit smoking or reduce your exposure to smoke, you can reduce your heart disease risk by 80% in just one year.

  • glasses of red and white wine on table
    3. Drinking Too Much Alcohol
    A few glasses of wine can quickly add up to an increased risk for heart disease. The recommended maximum amount of alcohol a woman should consume per day is just one glass. This suggestion is the amount consumed on any single day, not an average over several days. Overindulging in alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, increased cholesterol levels, and obesity—all key risk factors for heart disease. So dial back your drink to one serving per day. That means one 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor.

  • Women walking for exercise
    4. Not Getting Enough Exercise
    Exercise is a hot topic when you’re talking about heart health, but what mistakes are women making when it comes to working out? One big problem: the amount of exercise women get. We need more than you may think. The recommended minimum amount of exercise to keep your heart healthy is 2.5 hours a week of moderate exercise. That’s five 30-minute brisk walks or three 10-minute walks three times a day. Any way you can fit it in, it’s important to move your body. Even better, aim for 60- to 90-minute exercise sessions to lose weight and reduce dangerous abdominal fat that contributes to heart disease risk.

  • Heart Check
    5. Ignoring Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Numbers
    Out of sight, out of mind. That’s how many women view their heart health, but it’s important to track your risk factors so you can steer clear of an unexpected heart attack or stroke. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels all contribute to heart disease, but a quick checkup with your doctor can provide valuable information to help you manage these risks. During your annual physical, or more often as you get older, ask your doctor to test your numbers so you can take action to control any potential heart problems.

  • tensed woman on bed
    6. Not Knowing Heart Attack Symptoms for Women
    One of the tricky things about heart disease for women is their heart attack symptoms are different than men’s. Nearly 64% of women who die from a heart attack had no indicators that they were at risk. It’s important for women to learn what their heart attack symptoms are and be on the lookout. Most women don’t experience the crushing chest pain of a heart attack. Instead they feel extremely tired, sweaty, short of breath and have pain in the neck and shoulder, often accompanied by nausea or heartburn. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, play it safe and call 911.

  • doctor examining elderly patient
    7. Forgetting to Ask Your Doctor Questions
    A big mistake women make is not talking to their doctor about heart disease risk. If you have a family history of heart problems or are just concerned about your own heart health, tell your doctor. Ask questions about risk factors, inquire about tests that can determine your personal risk, and get advice on strategies for keeping your heart healthy. They may refer you to a dietician, recommend an exercise plan, suggest specific heart health tests, or help you find ways to manage stress. If you don’t ask, you can’t get the information you need to keep your heart as healthy as it can be.

  • Close up of womans eyes
    8. Thinking You’re Too Young or Too Healthy to Get Heart Disease
    Heart attacks and strokes may seem like they happen to older, unhealthy people, but anyone at any age is at risk for heart disease. Don’t make the mistake of thinking there’s no risk if you are young, exercise every day, and eat healthy food. All of those habits are great for protecting your heart, but there are some heart disease factors you can’t control like a family history of heart disease and unexpected stress. The sooner you start reducing the risk factors you actually can control, the better chance you’ll have of never experiencing a heart attack or stroke in your lifetime. As a bonus, your body will feel great and you’ll reduce your risk of more health issues than heart disease.

8 Heart Health Mistakes Women Make

About The Author

Elizabeth has been writing for Healthgrades since 2014 and specializes in articles about alternative and complementary therapies like meditation, yoga, energy work and aromatherapy. She also performs improv comedy and is a firm believer that laughter really is the best medicine.
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  12. Women and Heart Disease. Texas Heart Institute. http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/HSmart/women.cf
  13. Gender matters: Heart disease risk in women. Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/gender-matters-heart-disease-risk-in-women
  14. Heart disease in women: Understand symptoms and risk factors. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/heart-disease/art-20046167
  15. Know Your Risk for Heart Disease. American Heart Association. https://www.goredforwomen.org/know-your-risk/find-out-your-risk/know-your-risk-for-cardiovascular-di...
  16. Women and Cardiovascular Disease. Cleveland Clinic. http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/coronary-artery-disease/women-cardiovascular-...
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Last Review Date: 2018 Dec 15
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