(NBC) – If you’re seeing red today, it’s for a good reason. It’s National Wear Red Day, a push to raise awareness of heart disease in women.
More adults die of cardiovascular disease than cancer worldwide and in women, the warning signs may not be what you think.
“All of us are at risk for heart disease particularly as we get older,” said Dr. Sanjeev Gulati.
It’s the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women but symptoms between the sexes can differ.
“The presentation and the way doctors think about it, is really based on the bias of old studies where we’ve looked at mostly men having heart attacks, not realizing that women have actually the equal risk or even a higher risk,” said Dr. Gulati.
The most common symptom is chest pain or tightness but for women, it may not be the most severe.
And they’re more likely to experience other symptoms like indigestion, back or jaw pain, fatigue or shortness of breath.
“If, every day you’re walking the dog and you can walk around the block and all of a sudden you are halfway through that and you’re having more shortness of breath, you stop and it kind of goes away or gets better pretty quickly. Those are things that we would look for,” said Dr. Gulati.
Both men and women can reduce their risk by maintaining healthy weights, exercising and eating well, managing conditions like diabetes and high cholesterol, and quitting smoking.
“The changes we make today may not affect you for ten years, but if you don’t make those changes now, we can shorten your quality of life as well as your quantity of life,” said Dr. Gulati.
Heart attacks tend to strike women later in life than men.
According to the American Heart Association, the average age for a first attack in a man is 65. For a woman, it’s 72.