(WJBK) - Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States.
On average, a woman dies of heart disease every minute of every day.
The best way to avoid heart disease is to get screened and know your risk factors, but a new national survey shows women are years apart when it comes to knowing when to start those screenings.
As the mother of a 2 year old, Erin Ziegler knows the importance of regular checkups to make sure her daughter is healthy. But when it comes to her own health, she admits she wasn't as proactive. At just 26, Erin learned the hard way she had heart problems.
"I just got a really strong taste in my mouth and my whole right side of my body went numb," she remembers.
That's not uncommon. Doctors say many women assume heart problems won't affect them - especially at such a young age.
"Many people believe it is a disease that mostly affects men. However, women are equally affected, and, in fact we're still, we have been dying more of heart disease than men," says Dr. Marla Carolina Demori of Orlando Health.
The best way to avoid heart disease is to get screened and know your risk factors. But a new national survey by orlando health shows women are way behind when it comes to knowing just when those screenings should start. The American Heart Association recommends healthy heart screenings start at age 20.
But the survey found only only 8 percent of women said screenings should start in their 20s.
About 60 percent didn't think they were recommended until after age 30 - at least a full decade later.
"Certain cardiovascular diseases, we have a higher risk than men, so it's extremely important that we start early," says Dr. Demori.
Screenings should include your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels and glucose levels - and some may want to consider an EKG or other heart tests to uncover any existing heart condition. Information Erin didn't know - that could have cost her her life.
"Once you know it's come to light, you can do preventative measures. Something like mine was so easy like an aspirin a day, and I wouldn't have had that problem, I would have started an aspirin a day 10 years prior to that," Erin says.
Doctors say at age 20 you should also start keeping track of your BMI and waist size, both of which can be predictors of heart problems.
One of the reasons women in particular should start being checked at age 20 is that heart health becomes increasingly important should women decide to become pregnant.