Attention, American women, especially young women: Have you got the heart to save yours?

Although long thought of as a man’s disease, heart disease afflicts as many women, though women tend to develop and die from it about 10 years later. And while coronary mortality rates have declined over all, there are signs that the disease, its precursors and its potentially fatal consequences are increasing among young women.

A 2007 study in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology referred to the rise in cardiovascular risk factors among young women as “the leading edge of a brewing storm.”

While so many women worry about cancer, only slightly more than half realize that heart disease is their No. 1 killer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More women in the United States die from cardiovascular causes — heart disease and stroke — than from all forms of cancer combined.

Numerous campaigns by the American Heart Association and other organizations have raised awareness among women of their mostly self-inflicted risks and of symptoms that are typically far more subtle in women than in men.

“Even if they believe they’re having a heart attack, 36 percent don’t call 911,” said Dr. Holly S. Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Perelman Heart Institute at Weill Cornell Medical College, citing the latest heart association national survey. “Women are more likely to wait when they have symptoms and, when they get to the hospital, say that they have indigestion, not chest pain — a big mistake.”

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Jeffrey R. Ungvary President

Jeffrey R. Ungvary