Salt Lake City, Utah (Good Things Utah) — “Heart disease is a man’s disease.” “I’m too young.” “Breast cancer is my real threat.”

If you’ve heard or said any of this before, you’re not alone. Despite increases in awareness over the past decades, only about half (56%) of women recognize that heart disease is their leading killer, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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 is the cause of one out of every three deaths. That’s roughly one death each minute.

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.

And 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. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyles, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.

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’re often misunderstood.

Many of us have been conditioned to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, 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, feeling lightheaded or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

Major risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, diabetes, obesity or being overweight, smoking, physical inactivity, heredity, and age. Factors that could lead to an increased risk include stress and excessive alcohol consumption. For women, that means more than one drink a day.

For information on women and heart disease, Visit the Intermountain Health website.

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