Myths and facts of heart disease in women

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) — Heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States, and Friday, Feb. 3, is national Go Red for Women day.

Registered nurse and cardiac navigator Peggy Clerget of Franciscan Health Heart Center stopped by News 18 This Morning to talk about some of the myths and facts of heart disease.

A common myth is that men are most affected by heart disease, and cancer is the biggest threat for women.

But actually, as Clerget said, “The truth is heart disease is the number one killer for most men and women. One in three women will die from heart disease, whereas with cancer, it is one in 30 women.”

Another myth is heart disease only happens to older people.

“Most people think that, but really women of all ages can be affected by heart disease,” said Clerget. “Younger women who combine smoking with birth control pills have a 20 percent increase in risk for heart disease.”

Heart disease does not affect women who are in shape is another common myth.

“Oftentimes, some of the other bad habits like smoking or eating poorly … can counterbalance the good habits,” explained Clerget. “There are many stories of women who exercise and run marathons who are still affected by heart disease.”

Another misconceived notion is that if you don’t have any symptoms, you don’t have heart disease.

But as Clerget said, “Sixty-five percent of women that have a heart attack had no symptoms prior to their heart attack. It’s incredibly important to know what the symptoms are.”

Although basic symptoms are pain in the left arm and chest pains, but women’s symptoms can be different.

“They may have a discomfort in their chest,” explained Clerget. “Sometimes, it’s just a tightness or a pressure. … Women may present more nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

The final myth to cover is that if heart disease runs in someone’s family, there is nothing they can do about it.

Clerget said that is not the case.

“Even though you have a family history of heart disease, taking care of yourself and following a heart-healthy diet and exercising can help push any problems you may have further into the future.”

Clerget had one final piece of advice for viewers.

“Listen to your body. You know what it feels like, you know when something doesn’t feel right,” said Clerget. “Tell your daughters, tell your mothers, tell your husbands, ‘Hey, did you know symptoms were different for women?’ That way, they can help you recognize symptoms.”