Heart disease is still the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. But we do have some reason for hope. According to CNN, in 2013, fewer women than men died of cardiovascular disease for the first time in nearly 30 years.

On reason for that: Increased awareness. Awareness is linked to women taking preventive measures, according to a study by Lori Mosca, Heidi Mochari-Greenberger, Rowena J. Dolor, L. Kristin Newby, Karen J. Robb examining a 12-year education effort.

Among their findings:

  • Only slightly more than half of women in the study said they would call 9-1-1 if they thought they were having symptoms of a heart attack.
  • Common barriers to prevention were family and caretaking responsibilities (51 percent) and “confusion in the media” (42 percent).
  • The majority of women polled mentioned preventive measures that were not evidence-based.
  • At the community level, a large majority of women said access to healthy food, public recreation facilities and nutrition information at restaurants would be helpful.
  • The study found that awareness of stroke and heart disease risk factors and symptoms lags among racial/ethnic minorities.

Health professionals urge women to know the symptoms of a heart attack, which according to the American Heart Association include:

  1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
  4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
  5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you experience any of the above, call 911 immediately.

I’ll add my own recommendation: Know your family history, and make sure your doctor knows it, too. Though women can take steps to minimize their risks, cardiovascular disease does have a genetic component. Your doctor will help you formulate a plan for getting or staying healthy, which may include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Exercising (even moderate amounts can be beneficial)
  • Eating a sensible diet
  • Scheduling regular checkups and addressing any underlying factors that can affect cardiovascular health, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, hypertension or obesity.

Be smart and safe out there, broads. The world needs you healthy.

Read more about the study here: For decades, women had heart attacks in silence – CNN.com

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