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Which illness poses the biggest threat to a woman's health? Breast cancer? Lung cancer? Alzheimer's disease?
Many women are surprised to learn that coronary heart disease - often thought of as a "man's illness" - is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, according to the American Heart Association.
Women are more than five times as likely to die from heart disease as from breast cancer. In fact, nearly twice as many American women die from heart disease and stroke than from all types of cancer combined.
While heart disease cannot be completely stopped, certain lifestyle changes can significantly lower your risk of developing this illness. Unfortunately, several myths about heart disease and women continue to persist. These misconceptions lead many women into a false sense of security - just 13 percent of women believe heart disease is their own greatest health risk.
Five of the top myths regarding women and heart disease are as follows:
- Myth No. 1: Risk factors for heart disease are the same, regardless of gender. Studies show that certain illnesses and conditions are more likely to cause heart disease in women than in men. For example, metabolic syndrome is more likely to trigger heart disease in women. This condition is marked by obesity around the abdomen, high blood pressure, and high levels of blood glucose and triglycerides.
As a woman's level of estrogen drops before and during menopause, her risk of damage to smaller blood vessels in the heart increases. Stress and depression are also more likely to damage the hearts of women than men.