Heart disease is the #1 leading cause of death for women in the United States.
Though typically heart disease is thought of as a “man’s disease” it kills as many women as it does men.
64% of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no prior symptoms.
While some women have no symptoms, others experience what’s called angina (dull, heavy to sharp chest pain or discomfort), pain in the neck/jaw/throat or pain in the upper abdomen or back. These may occur during rest, begin during physical activity, or be triggered by mental stress.
Women are more likely to describe chest pain that is sharp, burning and more frequently have pain in the neck, jaw, throat, abdomen or back.
Sometimes heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until a woman experiences signs or symptoms of a heart attack, heart failure, an arrhythmia, or stroke.
These symptoms may include:
Heart Attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, upper body discomfort, and shortness of breath.
Arrhythmia: Fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations).
Heart Failure: Shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen.
Stroke: Sudden weakness, paralysis (inability to move) or numbness of the face/arms/legs, especially on one side of the body.
Other symptoms may include: confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech, difficulty seeing in one or both eyes, shortness of breath, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination, loss of consciousness, or sudden and severe headache.
Here are some risk factors you need to be aware of:
High blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are key risk factors for heart disease. About half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
Several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease, including:
- Overweight and obesity
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Excessive alcohol use
Here is what you can do to prevent and decrease your risk of heart disease:
1) Go to your doctor annually and know your numbers! You want to know your cholesterol, triglycerides, C-Reactive Protein and Hemoglobin A1C.
2) Know your family history. Genetics play a key role though you can change how your genes are expressed by having a healthy lifestyle.
3) You have to have a healthy diet. If heart disease is in your family, eating unhealthy processed foods has you rolling the dice. The food you choose can make you ill or keep you well. You have a choice to choose a healthy lifestyle or unhealthy lifestyle…let’s choose healthy.
4) Add a variety of colored fruits and vegetables to your meals daily. These foods are high in anti-oxidants which are also good for fighting cancer. If you start adding some veggies to your meals and snack you will find yourself feeling fuller longer and perhaps even dropping a few pounds. Adding whole grains in the proper portions, beans, low fat dairy and lean protein is also important to a healthy diet.
5) Reduce the sugar in your diet. Studies show that sugar causes inflammation in the body which has a direct correlation to heart disease.
6) Add healthy fat. We need fat in our diets to lose weight and have healthy skin, hair and nails and our organs need healthy fat as well. This includes, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, fatty fish and taking Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
7) Get in some physical activity at least 3x a week. Even if you dont have a gym membership you can move your body. Go up and down some stairs, talk a walk, walk the dog longer or dance in the house to your favorite music. Just get moving!
8) If you are 20+% over a healthy body weight for your height, losing 10% can change your blood lipid profile. But the caveat to this is if you are muscular as muscle shows up higher on the scale.
9) STOP SMOKING!!!! There is nothing more to say about that.
The bottom line is that you need to take care of yourself. Your body is your vessel that takes you through your entire life. Just because you can’t see the inside doesn’t mean you should take less care of it than what’s on the outside.
So if you are young, start now! You will be thankful later.
If you are at your midpoint, it’s NEVER too late to start to take care of your health and most chronic health conditions can be reversed with diet and exercise.
Never be too busy to be healthy.
Don’t take your health for granted.
You won’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.