Heart Disease: The Number One Killer of Women

by Dr. Rebecca Rundlett

Heart disease is the number one killer of women. More women’s lives are lost to cardiovascular disease than cancer, lung disease, and accidents combined. One in three women will have some form of cardiovascular disease by age 65. These statistics are alarming, yet only 21 percent of women see heart disease as a health threat.

Dr. Rebecca Rundlett

Dr. Rebecca Rundlett.

Historically, heart disease has been considered as a problem that mainly affects men. This is not the case. Women are at just as great of a risk as men are when it comes to heart disease and the trend for the past two decades has indicated that more women will have died from heart disease or strokes than men. As women get older, especially after menopause, their risk of heart disease dramatically increases.

For women, symptoms aren’t as obvious as they may be for men so it is important not to ignore shortness of breath or chest discomfort.  It is also important to regularly visit a physician to check blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, along with assessing you risk for heart disease or other related issues.  Women who smoke, have high blood pressure or cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or are obese or postmenopausal, are more at risk for heart disease so it is important to live an active and healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Rebecca Rundlett talks with a patient about heart disease.

Dr. Rebecca Rundlett talks with a patient about heart disease.

Don’t wait for symptoms to occur before changing your lifestyle. There are many things women can do to decrease their risk of heart disease such as watching their diet, regularly exercising, and refraining from smoking. One great way to get started exercising is by low-level walking, which means walking for 10 minutes a day, three days a week. Always check with your physician before starting an exercise program but even small amounts of physical activity can reduce your risk for heart disease.

Another way to support heart disease prevention is by participating in the Walk for Women’s Heart Disease, which will include free health screenings, a heart-healthy walk, and tours of the Heart Hospital. Registration is only $5 and all proceeds benefit the American Heart Association. The Walk for Women’s Heart Disease begins at 10 am with the walk beginning at 11 am on Saturday, May 11th. For questions about Walk for Women’s Heart Disease, call 402.328.3865 or go to our event page. For more information about the Women’s Heart Program at the Nebraska Heart Institute, visit http://www.neheart.com/our-services/womens-heart-program/.

Dr. Rebecca Rundlett has been a cardiologist at the Nebraska Heart Institute since 1996.  She is the Medical Director for the Women’s Heart Program at NHI and is an advocate for Nebraska Heart as the exclusive regional sponsor for Go Red for Women.

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