We tend to address concerns as they apply. Once the possibility of a medical condition becomes prevalent in our lives, we take the steps needed to lessen that likelihood. If we don’t perceive a risk, we ignore the disease. For women, this generally means that breast cancer, cervical cancer, eating disorders, osteoporosis and other so-called “female ailments” garner the most attention; problems typically associated with men are off the radar. Classifying and segregating in this manner is beneficial only in terms of the diseases we focus on. For the ones we’re disregarding, it’s considerably worrisome and dangerous. Take, for example, heart disease.
Heart disease is well known as the leading killer in the United States and throughout the world, but it’s almost always a condition linked to men. Women, unless told they are at risk, don’t believe it is an immediate problem. In fact, only 22 percent of women in the United Kingdom worry about heart disease. Their primary concern is, unsurprisingly, breast cancer. But heart disease kills six times more women than breast cancer and twice as many women as all cancers combined. It claims more female than male lives every year, yet women remain unaware . . . of everything. So, ladies, here’s what you need to know:
The majority of heart attacks occur in women who have accrued a few bad habits and have a family history of cardiovascular disease. They are inactive, eat poorly, and smoke or drink too often. They haven’t reached the high-concern age, so they haven’t started thinking about problems of the heart. When a heart attack does occur, they don’t necessarily connect the dots. The symptoms don’t always coincide with the “male” signs, involving, instead, nausea, sweating, fatigue, jaw pain and headache; therefore, medical attention isn’t immediately sought. Mortality rates rise, and an unrecognized killer becomes stronger. Sadly, it will continue to do so until more women alert themselves to the importance of cardiovascular health. Women need to alter their habits to fend off, not just breast cancer, but all diseases. It isn’t just the chest that’s concerning it’s what’s beneath it, too.