With heart disease so prevalent in my family, my mother, my grandmother, my uncles (mom's brothers), and the list goes on..., I decided to learn what I could about heart disease. The result is this series of blogs in hopes of helping others as well.
Heart disease affects everyone, however, women are starting to take center stage. The risk of heart disease in women is being examined more closely. If you are a woman, it is so important to learn how heart disease can affect you.
The number one killer of women is not breast cancer but heart disease. More women than men are succumbing to this terrible fate. Why? For one, not enough is known about how women are affected by heart disease. Secondly, women are not always educated on the signs and symptoms of a heart attack to save their lives.
Heart Attack Signs in Women
When we think of heart attacks, we envision the numbness in the arm. This is a symptom that is most often seen in men but may not be present in women. Women with risk factors for heart disease may show signs that are very different:
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Stomach pain, jaw, back or neck pain
• Dizziness or light-headedness
But the signs of a heart attack don’t develop overnight. The risk factors have probably been present for a long time before the heart attack happened.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Heart attack is not the only result of a poorly functioning heart. There is congestive heart failure and coronary heart disease. Both can lead to death.
Women have the same controllable risks as men:
• Obesity/Overweight-Too much fat, especially around your waist area, makes you more prone to health issues, including heart disease
• Smoking-smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease among women, this includes second hand smoke
• Poor diet-eating foods that are processed, and pre-packaged are the basis of a diet high in fat and sodium. You want to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as the basis of every meal adding in some protein. Smaller portions will make a difference as well.
• Sedentary lifestyle - a life without movement will be disastrous for your heart. Moving just 30 minutes a day will help keep that heart muscle in shape.
• Diabetes-High blood pressure and high cholesterol are often more common for people with diabetes therefore the risk for heart disease is increased.
• High blood pressure-is a key to strokes as well as a major factor for heart attacks.
Women also have some uncontrollable risk factors:
• Age (risk increases after 55)
• Post Menopause
• Family History
We can deal with the controllable risks. As you get older, you will get older and you will experience menopause. Not in our control. But, dealing with the items you CAN control will make the uncontrollable factors less of a problem.
Any risk factor is too much. Just because you are slim, doesn’t mean that you are healthy. Lowering risks can start as early as your twenties especially if you have a family history.
Being aware of your health profile goes a long way to helping you know which risk factors you have and what to do about them. Before you reach for the medicine, try the natural approach.
1. Change your eating habits – Choose more fruits and vegetables. Fatty food may not put weight on you in your twenties, but it is still doing a number on your arteries.
2. Change your birth control method – Birth control pills carry with it a risk of blood clots. If you smoke the risk is greater. Clots can lead to heart attacks. Ask your gynecologist about an IUD, patch or shots.
3. Get active – Burn calories each day with about 30 minutes of moderate activity.
This is just a start, but getting a jump on your health can keep you from becoming a statistic.