Ladies, stop what you're doing and book a doctor's appointment. Yes, right now. A new study in Heart reports that women are less likely to have their risk for heart disease checked out compared to men. Why is this such a big deal? Because heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States — for both men and women.
In the March 2017 study, Australian researchers found that women were significantly less likely to ask their general physician to measure their risk factors for heart disease compared to men. What's more, young women at high risk of cardiovascular disease — which includes coronary artery diseases, stroke, and heart attacks — were 37 percent less likely to be treated with the appropriate preventative medicines compared to men.
"Unfortunately, there is still the perception that heart disease is a man's disease," the study author, Julie Redfern, deputy director of the cardiovascular division of The George Institute for Global Health, said in a press release. "This is not the case here in Australia, the UK, or the US and we fear that one of the reasons more women are dying from heart disease is because they are not being treated correctly, including not even being asked basic questions about their health."
In the United States, one in three women dies of heart disease each year (compare that to breast cancer, which takes one in 31 women annually). What's more, 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for developing heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And we're not done with the scary stats just yet: More women die after their first heart attack than men — 47 percent compared to 36 percent, according to a February 2016 study.
But despite these overwhelming stats, only one in five women believes heart disease is her greatest health threat, the CDC says.
Well, guess what, ladies? Heart disease is your number one health threat. And it's time to stop believing otherwise.
The disease is called a "silent killer" because it often has no symptoms and presents barely-noticeable pain. The good news? The American Heart Association reports 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events might be prevented just from lifestyle changes and education.
Eating healthier and exercising more can knock the majority of those risk factors — which include diabetes, genetics, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol use, being overweight, and having a poor diet — off the list.
But talking to your doctor about your family medical history and personal risk is really, really important. Just look at Bob Harper, the Biggest Loser coach who was hospitalized a few weeks ago after suffering a heart attack. Despite being ultra fit and ultra healthy, he almost died because heart disease runs in his family.
Not only do you need to see your doc, but you need to explicitly ask your MD about your risk — especially if you're under 55 years old. Young women were 11 percent less likely to report that their doc told them they were at risk for heart disease compared to young men who had the same (or lower!) risk, according to an October 2015 study. And the new Australian study found younger women between 35 and 54 years old were 37 percent less likely to have the right meds to lower their risk compared to young men.
So regardless of whether you're active, healthy, overweight, male, or female, please talk to your doctor about your heart disease risk — your life may literally depend on it.