Survey: Many don’t realize heart disease is #1 killer for women


February is American Heart Month.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but according to a Cleveland Clinic survey – many people mistakenly believe breast cancer is more of a threat.

“I think most people believe that breast cancer, or gynecological cancer, tends to be the biggest killer in women, but it still continues to be heart disease,” said Leslie Cho, M.D., Director of the Women’s Cardiology Center at Cleveland Clinic.

“The reason why that’s so important is because 90 percent of heart disease comes from risk factors that you can control – blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking, diabetes.”

Results show millennials are most misguided – with only 20 percent correctly identifying heart disease as the leading killer for women.

“I think when you’re young, you think you’re invincible, but heart disease starts at an early age,” said Dr. Cho. “It’s what we eat and it’s what we do.”

Many surveyed know heart attack symptoms for women include chest pain, shortness of breath, sweating, and pain in the neck or jaw, but less than half realize fatigue and nausea are signs of heart attacks for women too.

“Thirty percent of women have atypical symptoms, so, they tend to have things like shortness of breath, or extreme fatigue, so if you feel these symptoms, especially with exertion, it’s really important to go and be seen by your physician,” said Dr. Cho.

Exercise is a good way for everyone to keep their heart healthy – but women are more likely than men to say they never exercise, or exercise less than one hour each week.

“It’s one of the most amazing thing we can do for our body – exercising,” Dr. Cho said. “The best exercise gets your heart rate up and you are sweating.”

Dr. Cho said women should aim for 150 minutes of exercise per week.

She said, the good news, is that even if you have a family history of heart disease, it is preventable by incorporating a healthy lifestyle, not smoking and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes under control.

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