Women and heart disease: The facts you should know

Heart disease is responsible for one in five deaths among women. Doctors warn there is a lot of misinformation about heart disease, especially in female patients.

World Heart Day was Sept. 29 and this year’s theme was “Cardiovascular Health for Everyone.”

Every 34 seconds, someone dies from heart disease in the US, that’s about 700,000 deaths a year. But is it only men who must worry about heart issues?

In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 leading cause of death in women, responsible for one in five female deaths.

Are women more likely to survive if they have a heart attack? Forty-two percent of women who have heart attacks pass away within one year compared to only 24 percent of male heart attack survivors. And for people under 50, heart attacks are twice as fatal in women than in men.

Last question: signs of a heart attack are always easy to spot in women?

“I had a patient who had a toothache that turned out to be her symptom for having a heart attack,” says Dr. Annabelle Santos Volgman, a cardiologist at Rush University Medical Center.

Two-thirds of women’s heart attack deaths occur in women with no history of chest pain and the American Heart Association says subtle heart attack symptoms are often mistaken for another health condition.

Another commonly believed myth is women and men with heart disease get the same medical care. Research shows that women are less likely than men to receive medications that can prevent further health problems such as beta-blockers, statins, and ace inhibitors. Women are also less likely to receive an implantable defibrillator or even to be given aspirin following a heart disease diagnosis.