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February 26, 2019


Women’s Symptoms, Risk Factors Different from Men’s

February 26, 2019


Women’s Symptoms, Risk Factors Different from Men’s

MANAWA, Wis. – February’s American Heart Month is a good opportunity for people to consider the risks of heart disease and take steps to improve heart health. For women, it’s important to know that their risks and symptoms may be different from those experienced by men.

“Unfortunately, most women don’t notice the symptoms of heart disease until it’s too late,” said Kelli VanderWielen, Corporate Events and Development Director for the American Heart Association in the Fox Cities. “The statistics are that one in three women will die from cardiovascular disease. That’s why we started the Go Red for Women movement 15 years ago.”

The Go Red for Women movement raises awareness that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for women as well as men, surpassing cancers and other causes of death. But more than that, it encourages women to take charge of their heart health.

“First, they need to know their numbers – blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels,” said Tina Bettin, family practice nurse practitioner with ThedaCare Physicians-Manawa. “These are all risk factors for heart disease and stroke, so with that information women can make lifestyle changes to control the risks.”

That’s why making and keeping annual wellness appointments is important for everyone. Age adds a risk factor as one in three women past the age of 65 will have cardiac issues. Even as a person reaches their mid-40s and early 50s, blood pressure sometimes increases naturally, so it’s important to know those numbers Bettin explained.

An active lifestyle plays an important role in reducing the risk of cardiac disease. Providers are seeing more young people – even teenagers – who are experiencing high cholesterol panels because of sedentary lifestyles, according to Bettin.

People also may reduce cardiac disease risk by quitting tobacco, controlling obstructive sleep apnea and keeping weight under control.

“The more weight you’re carrying, the more your heart has to pump, so it puts an additional strain on the heart,” Bettin said.

The American Heart Association recommends that women increase physical activity to 150 minutes per week to help improve their health, or about 22 minutes per day.

“Any kind of activity that gets your heart rate up is good activity, from walking your dog to doing yoga,” VanderWielen said.

Eating smart is another great way to reduce risk. Too much sodium can increase blood pressure, and sugary drinks significantly increase risk as well.

According to Bettin, psychological health plays an important role in cardiac health as well. Women may not know that the impact of general stress, depression and post traumatic stress disorder can impact women’s heart health more than men’s, so addressing those issues is key to reducing a woman’s cardiac disease risk.

“Many times that’s also impacting their blood pressure, and it also affects their sleep. If you don’t sleep, you’re not refreshing the body,” Bettin said.

Also remembering that cardiac symptoms often manifest differently in women than in men can make the difference in saving a life.

“A lot times we hear about chest pain, jaw pain or left arm pain—those are not the standard symptoms that we’ll always see in females,” Bettin said. “Instead, women may experience increased fatigue, pain between their shoulder blades or in their back, or sometimes shortness of breath.”

Being armed with information and taking positive actions to reduce cardiac disease risk can put people back on track for living a healthier life.

“A person’s quality of life really depends on their heart health,” VanderWielen said. “We want people to know that having a healthy heart will give you a better energy level and a better lifestyle.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.