Is it just me or does it feel like January has been dragging on forever? Well, February is practically here which means American Heart Month. Coming up in just a few days, February 2nd, is National Wear Red Day to raise awareness about heart disease! National Wear Red Day is in initiative by the Go Red For Women campaign by the American Heart Association (AHA) to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease in women.
Facts about heart disease in women
It is a myth that heart disease is an old man’s disease. In fact, heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. Right now, an estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular disease.
Surprisingly, heart disease does not affect all women equally. Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women. Of African American women 20 years and older, 49 percent have heart diseases. Researchers have found that there may be a gene that makes African American people more sensitive to the effects of salt which raises blood pressure which leads to more heart attacks and strokes. Thus making it that much more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Women and heart attacks
Sixty-four percent of women who died suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms (AHA). Many of us have been conditioned to think that the first sign of a heart attack is crushing chest pain. However, for women, this is not usually the case. Women tend to experience symptoms that are more vague, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Back or jaw pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or passing out
- Extreme fatigue
These symptoms are overall non-specific which makes them easy to ignore. Pay attention to what your body is telling you!
Risk factors for heart disease
There are numerous risk factors for heart disease. Some can be controlled while others cannot. See list below:
- Family history
- Previous heart attack or stroke
- High blood pressure
- Being overweight or obese
- High blood cholesterol
- Low activity level (sedentary lifestyle)
- Personal history of diabetes
Numbers to know for heart disease
There are a few measures to be taken at your annual well-woman visits to keep in mind. These help determine your risk for heart disease:
- Blood pressure in general should be less than 120/80
- Fasting blood sugar less than 100
- Total cholesterol along with “good” and “bad” cholesterol numbers vary based on your risk factors
- Body Mass Index which is an indicator of healthy weight; BMI less than 25 is ideal
Talk with your provider about your numbers and whether or not you are at target.
Managing risk factors
As mentioned, some risk factors are non modifiable but there are many that can be controlled. You can take charge today to promote good heart health!
- Quit smoking
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels
- Lose weight
- Manage blood pressure
- Manage blood sugar if you are diabetic or prediabetic
- Get active
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Manage stress in a healthy way
Check out Go Red For Women for tips. Do you have trouble with lifestyle modifications? Consider using a health coach who can guide you through your journey. Oftentimes, health insurance companies provide these services for free.
National Wear Red Day
As mentioned, National Wear Red Day is February 2, 2018. On this day, let’s come together as a united force to empower women and raise awareness about heart disease! Also, don’t forget to share on social media!
How will you help raise awareness of heart disease in women? Let me know in a comment!
Disclaimer: Information contained in this post should not be substituted for medical advice. Therefore, if you think you are having a problem, contact your own provider who knows your health history.