New Yorkers will “Wear Red and Give” today to spread the message that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women in the United States.
The American Heart Association is uniting with communities across the city to “Go Red and Give” on this special day to raise awareness about heart disease and stroke, which cause one in three deaths among women each year. Association statistics also show that despite an abundance of public-awareness campaigns, 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
It’s especially important for women to recognize possible signs of heart disease because it can present itself differently than it does in men, according to a doctor at Coney Island Hospital.
“Women are a special population that have to be watched closely. Just because you don’t have chest pain doesn’t mean something isn’t wrong,” said Dr. Nicholas Brodyn, chief of cardiology at the medical center. “Take my own mother. I was away with my family and called home, and my father told me my mother had gone to bed at 8 pm, when she usually went to bed at midnight. She was presenting with fatigue, tiredness, and she ended up having severe multi-coronary disease.”
Symptoms can show differently, but typically include chest pain, exhaustion, weakness, vomiting, and indigestion.
And a critical concern with women’s health problems is that they can go untreated longer, because women may downplay their discomfort, according to Brodyn.
“Women typically don’t complain medically, and they might downplay their indigestion or fatigue,” he said, adding that it’s important women exercise caution when they do have symptoms. “If you used to walk five blocks to the grocery store to get your newspaper, and now you are driving to the store because you are exhausted, there’s probably a reason. Be suspicious.”
The most important thing a woman can do to manage her heart health is see her doctor for an annual checkup, and if something doesn’t seem right, be proactive and get it checked out, according to Brodyn.
“If you’re not feeling yourself, you’re exhausted for no reason, it’s not a bad idea to get checked out by a cardiologist,” he said.
If women suspect something might be wrong, but are nervous about seeing a doctor, they should speak to other women with similar medical histories, as hearing someone else’s story can help, according to the doctor.
“I’ve been practicing for 30 years, and I’m amazed patients don’t believe doctors. Many, many of my patients who required bypass surgery, or defibrillators — they believe the civilian more than the doctor. It’s easier to believe someone who went through it than a professional,” Brodyn said.
It is possible to live a long and healthy life, the doctor said, as long as women stay vigilant and remember that their symptoms can be unique.
“We’re seeing more women living to 100 and older, while living past 90 is still unusual for men. Women have the benefit as far as longevity, as long as they are conscious they may present differently than men,” he said.
Join thousands of New Yorkers and participate in National Wear Red Day on Feb. 1 by donating to the Go Red For Women campaign and taking steps to better understand your heart health. Spread the word and encourage others to give by sharing #WearRedandGive on social media.