GREAT FALLS — February is American Heart Month, and Benefis Health System in Great Falls is working to raise awareness about cardiovascular health for women.
According to the federal US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death of women in the U.S.
Many people in years past believed heart disease affected primarily men, but Dr. Hanna Konarzewska says when President Lyndon Johnson declared February to be American Heart Month, only 22% of women understood that heart disease affected them.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death of women in the United States. “A lot of people think it’s breast cancer. Breast cancer is 1 out of 6, while heart disease is 1 out of 3,” said Montana VA Women Veteran Program Manager Sue Calentine. “That means that every 80 seconds is dying from a heart attack or stroke.”
“Back in 1964, it was totally misunderstood. We didn’t know that the ladies can have heart disease as well. Right now cardiologists are better. We know that we are just as bad as men are. On average we get the disease a little later in life," Konarzewska said.
"66-67 is about average for the first heart attack for men, 70 is for women, but we are getting there pretty quickly. This probably from the protection of our hormonal makeup but everything else we do takes that protection away,” Konarzewska continued.
She says 80% of all risk factors for heart disease are preventable. The five major risk factors for heart and vascular diseases are high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, tobacco use, and family history.
Ways to reduce the risk of heart disease include knowing your diabetes and blood pressure status, quitting tobacco use, and limiting alcohol consumption, as well as reducing stress and adapting a healthy diet.
It's estimated that 1 in 16 women age 20 and older have coronary heart disease. Regular checkups with your care provider can help identify the status of your cardiovascular health.