This past February 3 marked the 15th Annual National Wear Red Day which was started back in 2003 to bring national attention to the undisputed fact that women’s heart disease is the #1 killer of women (it kills six times more women than breast cancer), and to raise awareness of women’s heart health. Heart disease is largely associated with men and usually goes undiagnosed for women but is preventable. In fact, by making some small changes to your diet and lifestyle you can decrease your chances of heart disease significantly. Go Red should be every woman’s mantra every single day….not just during the month of February.
I just finished reading “Women and Heart Disease: The Real Story” by Dr. Jacqueline A. Eubany and learned the rate of death from heart disease for women between 35-54 is on the rise. Women often don’t recognize the signs of a heart attack because they are not usually massive coronaries which are more prevalent in men. Therefore women tend to call 911 too late. The later the diagnosis, the less likely is a full recovery.
THE WARNING SIGNS
What are some warning signs of heart disease for women (heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia and congestive heart failure)? Chest discomfort that radiates to the stomach (can feel like heartburn and indigestion) or pain down the arm or into the back. Other signs are a shortness of breath or difficulty catching one’s breath with chest discomfort. Some women break out in cold sweats, turn pale, are light headed and /or experience dizziness, inability to breath lying flat (like sleeping) and abnormally swollen legs. If any combination of these occur seek immediate attention.
HOW TO LOWER YOUR RISK
Lower your risk of heart disease by not smoking (that means staying away from second hand smoke, too), doing physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, sticking to a heart healthy diet and checking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Women should engage in a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. Ideally these workouts should be spread throughout the week. Muscle strengthening activities two or more days per is important as well. A heart healthy diet – one that is rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, high fiber, fish that contains omega-3 fatty acids, low in saturated fats, trans-fats, cholesterol and salt is essential. Also try to consume alcohol in moderation (one drink per day) and avoid foods and drinks with added sugars. If you have a family predisposition of heart problems, speak to your doctor to make sure you are doing all that you can to avoid becoming a statistic.
For more information on women’s heart disease visit heart.org.