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Women: Know heart attack signs

Feb 21, 2018

Happy Black History Month! Did you know that February is also American Heart Month? Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, and cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. Smoking also raises the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Each year 1 in 3 deaths among women is caused by heart disease or stroke. Ninety percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke, and fewer women than men survive their first heart attack. For African American women {and Hispanic women} the risk is greater.

  • Heart disease kills nearly 50,000 African American women annually.
  • African American women are almost twice as likely as Caucasian women to have a stroke and more likely to die at an earlier age than women of other ethnicities.
  • Among African American women age 20 and older, 49% have heart disease.
  • Only 52% of African American women know the signs of a heart attack.
  • Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Hispanic women, killing nearly 21,000 annually.

Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity and family history are all heart disease and stroke risk factors. Women may experience a heart attack differently than men. Subtle symptoms such as pain in the stomach, jaw, neck or back, nausea, or shortness of breath can make it hard for women to know they're experiencing a heart attack. Discuss the signs of a heart attack with a doctor and call 9-1-1 if you start to experience symptoms. Regular exams and screenings are a good time to ask questions and stay on top of your health!

Dr. O'dell Owens is the president and chief executive officer of Interact for Health and InterAct for Change. Dr. Owens is a reproductive endocrinologist. He holds both an MD and a master's of public health from Yale University Medical School. In recent years, Dr. Owens has served as the Hamilton County Coroner, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College President and Interim Health Commissioner of the Cincinnati Health Department.

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