Five myths about heart disease in women, debunked by an expert

In the sea of health misinformation, heart disease in women floats to the top as one of the most overlooked issues. With Go Red for Women day shining a spotlight on the matter, it’s time to do some mythbusting and spread the truth about this silent threat. Here’s what Chae Choi, MD, FACC, Northern Light Cardiology, has to say about five common myths about heart disease in women.

Myth 1: Heart disease is a man’s problem
While many people think heart attacks are primarily a concern for the men, heart disease holds the dubious title as the leading cause of death for women in the US. Every year, more women die of coronary artery disease than men, and fewer women survive a first heart attack.

Myth 2: I’m too young to worry about heart disease
Heart disease affects women of all ages. In fact, heart health issues can start as early as birth if you are born with abnormal structure of heart or have inherited hypercholesterolemia, which causes dangerously high levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol. The CDC recommends regular exercise, a balanced diet, and periodic health screenings as steps every woman should take, regardless of age.

Myth 3: If I had heart disease, I’d know because of chest pain
Heart disease doesn’t always announce its presence with chest pain, especially in women. Heart disease symptoms can be subtle in women—think fatigue, shortness of breath, nausea, or back pain, or unusual sweating. Because many of these symptoms are similar to flu, women are more likely to think it’s something less serious, a potentially fatal misjudgment. Understanding the full spectrum of possible symptoms is crucial.

Myth 4: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it
While genetics do influence the risk of heart disease, it’s not the whole story, especially for women. Factors like hormonal changes, pregnancy-related issues, and menopause can interact with genetic factors. However, lifestyle can be a powerful mediator. Women who don’t smoke, maintain a healthy diet, engage in regular physical activity, and manage stress can offset some of the genetic risks. Screening for conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes are also critical steps for women to take charge of their heart health.

Myth 5: I don’t need to worry because I’m fit and eat healthy food
Fitness and a balanced diet a very important, but only paint part of the picture. Factors such as stress, anxiety, and depression tend to affect women differently than men and can have a significant effect on heart health. Also, conditions like autoimmune disease, which are more prevalent in women, can also contribute to heart disease risk. Embracing a comprehensive approach to health by addressing physical, mental, and emotional well-being is important for women to protect their hearts effectively.

With the right knowledge, heart disease in women is a risk that can be managed. Let’s encourage every woman to take their heart health into her own hands by knowing the signs and embracing a heart-healthy lifestyle.


Share this important information with a woman you love.