Although heart disease remains the No. 1 killer nationally for women-—responsible for one out of every three deaths—-many of today's women still underestimate the seriousness of the disease and their risks, says Liliana Cohen, MD, a board-certified cardiologist with The Robert Wood Johnson Medical Group.
"The latest American Heart Association statistics reveal that heart disease is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined, killing one woman every minute. Yet, these same studies show that relatively few women believe that heart disease is their greatest health threat," says Dr. Cohen, who also serves as Assistant Professor of Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, and participating physician in its Non-Invasive Cardiovascular Services program. "The reality is that 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. These misconceptions could be putting women's lives at risk every day."
"The symptom many women focus on is chest pain, but the reality is that women are also likely to experience other types of symptoms, including shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea or vomiting. This misperception may lead many women to ignore or minimize their symptoms and delay getting life-saving treatment," Dr. Cohen explains.
Other symptoms of a heart attack for both women and men include dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting; pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen; and extreme fatigue.
"When in doubt, it is always best to seek medical assistance," says Dr. Cohen, who specializes in echocardiography, a technique that uses ultrasound to diagnose cardiovascular diseases.