Are women distracted by health threats?

No. 1 killer of women still seen as ‘man’s disease’

The majority of women have received an inaccurate message about their level of cardiovascular risk. When women are asked what they think is the leading cause of mortality, they still say breast cancer. It’s not. It’s coronary disease.

Heart disease has been the No. 1 killer of American women since 1908. Yet as recently as 30 years ago, and in some circles, even today, it is considered a man’s disease. A woman’s interest is often seen to be limited to keeping her husband healthy.

The facts are these: (See graphs, pp. 55-56.)

• 480,000 heart attack deaths occur each year; 236,000 victims are women.

• 498,000 women die each year of cardiovascular disease; all forms of cancer combined kill 254,000 women each year.

• 93,000 women die each year of stroke, whereas breast cancer kills 43,600.

• CVD was the first-listed diagnosis of nearly three million males and 2,750,000 females discharged from short-stay hospitals.

• 33% of the 11¼2 million females discharged from home healthcare agencies had a primary diagnosis of CVD at admission.

• In 48% of men and 63% of women who died suddenly of CHD, there were no previous symptoms of the disease.

• At older ages, women who have heart attacks are twice as likely as men to die from them within a few weeks.

• 44% of women (and 27% of men) die within one year of a heart attack.

• 875,000 females diagnosed with CHD are discharged from short-stay hospitals annually.

• Hypertension is the most consistent risk factor for CVD in women over 35.

• Hypertension combined with obesity, plus oral contraceptive use at least doubles CVD risk.

• Smoking has a more dramatic impact on a woman’s heart disease risk due to her smaller vessel lumens.

• Diabetes mellitus increases women’s risk more than men’s.