The wrong information can be just as dangerous as no information. Mixed messages from today’s media, as well as the tendency of the public and even healthcare providers to underestimate the problem, are enormous barriers to heart health in women* (assigned female at birth). As a result, you may have encountered myths regarding your risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), also known as “heart disease.” Read on to learn the truth about some common myths about heart disease.
Myth #1: Women do not get heart disease
Truth: Heart disease is the leading killer of women in the U.S.1
Myth #2: Women are more at risk for breast, uterine, and ovarian cancer than from heart disease
Truth: Heart disease is the single most common cause of death among women. Heart disease kills more women in the U.S. than all forms of cancer combined.2
Myth #3: Women are not at risk for heart attack until after menopause
Truth: Heart disease is the fourth most common cause of death among women ages 20 to 44.3
Myth #4: Estrogen protects women from heart attacks
Truth: The loss of natural estrogen may contribute to the risk of heart attack as you age, but studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.4
Myth #5: Current heart disease research applies equally to men* and women
Truth: Women only account for less than 40% of most heart disease clinical trials.5
Myth #6: Men and women receive the same treatment for heart disease
Truth: Women are less likely to have an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) done within 10 minutes of presenting with heart attack symptoms and have longer wait times to be evaluated by a doctor (about 11 minutes longer than men) during their inpatient admission. This is partly due to women sometimes presenting with symptoms that may not be typical of a heart attack. Symptoms in women may consist of chest pressure, pain, or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to present with symptoms such as shortness of breath, jaw or arm pain, or upper abdominal discomfort.6
*The term “women” in the context of “women’s cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned female at birth (AFAB) who have a female biological reproductive system, which includes a vagina, uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, accessory glands, and external genital organs.
*The term “men” in the context of “cardiovascular health” applies to individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB) who have a male biological reproductive system, which includes a penis, scrotum, testes, epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, and seminal vesicles.