WATERLOO – “The nation goes red in February.” That’s the American Heart Association’s pledge as communities and organizations, including MercyOne, take part in raising awareness about cardiovascular disease and stroke. As the largest cardiac care provider in Iowa, MercyOne continues to be the regional leader in clinical heart research, with cutting-edge therapies – including new drugs, medical devices and surgical procedures.

“Heart disease is the number one cause of death in both men and women in the U.S. but women often experience more atypical symptoms,” said Dr. Hannah Carlsen, a family medicine provider at MercyOne. “Women often think those symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue are just because of the flu or acid reflux, but there can really be something more serious going on such as a heart attack.”

More than one in three women is living with some form of cardiovascular disease. For women, heart disease is deadlier than most cancers combined! Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women each year.

While traditional risk factors for heart disease affect both men and women, there are other factors that can play a role in the development of disease in women. Heart disease risks include:

• Family history of early heart disease

• After menopause, estrogen production decreases and can lead to significant risk

• Diabetes

• Smoking

• High Blood pressure

“Lifestyle is strongly connected to women who experience heart disease,” said Dr. Carlsen. “Your lifestyle in your 20s may not seem like a big deal, but it catches up once you turn 30 and develop high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes and other risk factors.”

Want to learn how healthy your own heart is? Take MercyOne’s quiz at https://www.mercyone.org/health-and-wellness/health-risk-assessments.