Myth #1: Heart disease only affects men.

Fact: About 80% of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease, and approximately 1 in 2 women is living with some form of heart disease. Having multiple risk factors significantly increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease.

Myth #2: More women die from cancer than from heart disease.

Fact: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. It is responsible for one in three deaths among women each year—more than all cancers combined.

Myth #3: I’m thin and I run, so I’m off the hook.

Fact: Unfortunately, no. While maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly can reduce your risk of heart disease, many other factors, some of which are out of your control, such as family history or your age, can increase your risk. Lifestyle factors, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, may also increase your risk.

Myth #4: If I am healthy, I don’t need to see a doctor.

Fact: The secret to preventing heart disease is recognizing and managing risk factors before symptoms begin. The goal of a heart health evaluation is to detect heart disease or a heart condition at its earliest and most treatable stage. The American Heart Association suggests regular evaluation tests to accurately monitor your cardiovascular health.

Myth #5: I would know if I had heart disease.

Fact: Heart disease develops over time and can be “silent,” often going undiagnosed until a person experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack. That’s why getting regular heart health evaluations is so important.

Myth #6: Men and women experience the same symptoms of heart disease.

Fact: Warning signs and symptoms of heart disease can vary between men and women and also by type of heart disease. While chest pain is the leading symptom for both men and women, women may also experience:

  • Pain or pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen
  • Jaw, neck or upper back pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness, feeling lightheaded or fainting
  • Indigestion
  • Cold sweat
  • Extreme fatigue

Myth #7: If I have a family history of heart disease, there’s nothing I can do to lower my chances of developing heart disease.

Fact: Although people with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, you can help reduce your risk by taking these steps. Stay active. Eat healthfully. Maintain a healthy weight. Quit smoking. Monitor and manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.

Myth #8: Only a certain subset of the population is at risk of developing heart disease.

Fact: Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about half of all Americans have at least one of three key risk factors for heart disease—high blood pressure, high cholesterol or smoking. Diabetes and obesity are also significant risk factors.

Myth #9: There are warning signs for high blood pressure.

Fact: High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is sometimes called the “silent killer” because it usually occurs without causing symptoms. Women represent almost 52% of deaths from high blood pressure.

If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems, including damage to the heart and coronary arteries, heart attack or heart failure as well as stroke or kidney damage. Fortunately, checking your blood pressure is relatively simple. Your primary care physician can advise you on the best way to monitor yours.

Myth #10: Heart attack, cardiac arrest and heart failure are all the same thing.

Fact: While these terms are often used interchangeably, they describe different conditions. During a heart attack, blood flow to the heart is obstructed, usually by a blood clot or plaque buildup in the arteries. During cardiac arrest, a person’s heart stops beating due to electrical problems in the heart, and they lose consciousness. With heart failure, the heart keeps working, but it fails to circulate blood properly, depriving the body of essential blood and oxygen. Heart attack and cardiac arrest happen suddenly and are medical emergencies requiring immediate medical attention. Heart failure usually occurs gradually over time, but can be a sudden event.

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