Many women think heart issues affect more men than women.
But heart disease – not breast cancer – is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Between heart disease and strokes, 1 woman in 3 dies every second in this country, and fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
That’s why February 4 is National Wear Red Day: to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease in women and save lives.
Heart problems don’t discriminate. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African-American women, and Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years before Caucasian women.
The most common cause of heart disease in both men and women is narrowing or blockage of the coronary arteries, the blood vessels that supply blood to the heart itself.
But there is good news. Eighty percent of all heart problems can be prevented by lifestyle changes like managing blood pressure, exercising and eating healthier.
Don’t have a stroke!
Stroke factors vary from women to women, but diabetes, heart disease, depression and emotional stress contribute. Another major cause? Uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Called the “silent killer,” high blood pressure can lead to a stroke by damaging and weakening the brain’s blood vessels, causing them to narrow, rupture or leak.
You can beat high blood pressure by knowing your numbers!
Keep your blood pressure under 120/80. High blood pressure doubles – and may quadruple –your stroke risk if it’s left uncontrolled.
Lower your odds for a heart attack or stroke
Diet: Reduce salt and sugars.
Say goodbye to high-cholesterol foods (burgers, cheese, ice cream and junk food). Say hello to 4-5 cups of fruit and vegetables daily; one serving of fish two or three times a week; add more whole grains, and choose low-fat dairy.
Exercise: Get 30 minutes of activity at least five times a week.
Alcohol: Drink moderately. (One glass of alcohol a day, or none)
Weight: Lose it. Even 10 pounds makes a difference.
Know the signs
Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms other than only chest pain.
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
Check with your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.
Learn about your health risks
A thousand little things can affect your health without you even realizing it. Regularly eating a poor diet and avoiding exercise can lead to high cholesterol. Years of a stressful job or taking care of others without proper self-care can result in high blood pressure. So many things, in fact, it’s hard to stay mindful of them all. But once a year, for roughly 20 minutes or so, it’s a good idea to stop and think about how your lifestyle could be affecting your health, now and in the long term.
For select members, My Blueprint has a special questionnaire, known as a health risk assessment (HRA), that can help you identify habits and medical history risks before they cause health conditions to sneak up on you.