National Wear Red Day spotlights women's number one killer

Director/actress Elizabeth Banks (C) at the premiere of Go Red for Women short film 'Just a Little Heart Attack' along with the real women who inspired it on Sept. 13, 2011 in New York.
Henry S. Dziekan III/Getty Images for AHA Go Red for Women

Wondering why women are wearing red on Friday? Feb. 1 is National Wear Red Day, a day to bring awareness to women's heart disease.

According to the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign, heart disease is the number one cause of death for U.S. women, yet only 20 percent of women think that it is a problem for them. Currently 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease.

Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease. Heart disease causes one in three women's deaths each year -- about one per minute.

But, by making people more aware, more than 627,000 women have prevented heart disease, and 330 fewer women are dying each day, Go Red for Women reported.

There are many causes of the varying kinds of heart disease, with the most common being coronary artery disease -- the narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries which provide blood and oxygen to the heart. Left untreated, coronary artery disease can cause heart attacks. Other heart problems include something wrong with the valves in the heart and problems with the heart pumping that causes heart failure. Some people are born with diseases of the heart as well.

Go Red for Women points out that heart disease can affect women of all ages. Young women who smoke and are on birth control increase their chance of getting heart disease by 20 percent. Even women who are fit can be at risk if they have high cholesterol levels, which is why the American Heart Association suggests people get their cholesterol checked starting at age 20 or earlier if there is a family history of heart disease.

Still, with all these precautions, 64 percent of women who die of coronary heart disease had no prior symptoms. Many times it's because women don't realize they are having a heart attack because most think symptoms primarily involve chest pains, according to Go Red for Women. Signs for a heart even in women include shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back or jaw pain, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.

To reduce heart disease risk, you can control your blood pressure, lower your cholesterol, quit and not start smoking , eat healthy, lose weight and get an appropriate amount of exercise. In addition, knowing your family's history can help doctors diagnose any problems.

To learn more, visit Go Red for Women.