This Friday, February 5th, people across the nation are asked to wear red to raise awareness of heart disease in women as part of the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign. Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both genders in the United States. However, heart attacks are often deadlier in women. This is partially caused by a delay in seeking treatment as a woman’s symptoms can be more subtle than those of men. Although chest pain is the most common symptom of heart attack for both men and women, women are more likely to report shortness of breath, back or jaw pain with nausea and vomiting, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Heart disease is also a significant risk factor for stroke (the 3rd leading cause of death for women). Let’s kick start this month by raising both community awareness of heart disease and also personal awareness of your own risk for heart disease and stroke.
If you know the risk factors for stroke you’re ahead of the curve. Stroke and heart disease share many common risk factors such as obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and smoking. Increasing age and family history are risk factors you can’t change, however, it is important to be mindful of the effect these have on your personal risk.
Small diet changes and increases in physical activity can lower your risk of heart disease by up to 80% according to the AHA. Follow a heart healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt (sodium). Make it a habit to check nutrition labels as processed foods such as canned products and frozen convenience foods are frequently packed with sodium. Making one change in your diet at a time will make it easier to stick with your healthy living goals. Be active throughout your day in addition to regular exercise. Walking is great exercise for beginners. Alternate your regular pace with short bursts of brisk walking to increase the cardiovascular benefits! Whatever you choose to do to be active, just get out there and do it today for a healthier tomorrow.
High blood pressure often has no symptoms, therefore checking blood pressure regularly is crucial. Blood pressure should be less than 120/80 for most people. Have your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s office or pharmacy and register for the Walk N Roll so we can check it again for you then! High blood pressure is the number one cause of stroke, so be sure you know where you run and how to control it.
Many think that all cholesterol is bad, however there are two types: HDL which is “good” cholesterol and LDL that is “bad”. Although LDL often get’s all the attention, HDL levels are important to monitor as well. HDL is thought to lower risk of heart disease by clearing the blood of an excess of LDL and also by keeping blood vessel walls clean. Levels of HDL for women drop as estrogen production decreases after menopause. Family history also plays a role in your cholesterol levels, so make sure you know what your numbers are. The recommendation is that cholesterol be checked every 5 years starting in your 20’s for both men and women. Keep your LDL below 100 mg/dL and your HDL above 60 mg/dL to protect against heart disease.
Diabetes and cigarette smoking also increase your risk of heart disease as well. Visit our education page for a helpful link to quit smoking and stay tuned for information about diabetes and heart disease later this month.