This month Delaware Hospice team members are wearing red to show our support in raising awareness of heart disease in women. We dedicate our February blog to those efforts.
You’ve always taken great care of your family, but have you paid attention to your heart? Sadly, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S. In fact, it kills six times as many women each year as breast cancer.
So why is it often thought of as a “man’s disease”? Symptoms for heart disease aren’t the same for women as they are for men. Women don’t typically report feeling a crushing chest pain like most men. Instead, women will often experience unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, and trouble sleeping. Women will also show symptoms such as nausea and pain in the abdomen, neck, and shoulder. Since the pain is often described as a pressure, many women downplay their symptoms and don’t receive medical attention until heart damage has already occurred.
While risk factors for coronary artery disease such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity affect both women and men, other risk factors put more women at risk than men, including:
- Mental stress and depression
- Broken heart syndrome
- Pregnancy complications
So how do you keep heart disease out of your life? Consider the following to help prevent heart disease:
A Healthy Diet
Fight back heart disease with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and fatty fish such as salmon. Don’t forget those unrefined and fiber-rich whole-grain foods. Also, try to reduce your intake of saturated fats and added sugars!
Engaging in moderate physical activity five days a week for at least 30 minutes lowers your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.
Women who smoke are more likely to have a heart attack than male smokers. Chances of having a heart attack doubles if you smoke 1-4 cigarettes per day.
Manage Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm/hg.
Help your arteries stay clear of blockages. You should talk to your doctor about your cholesterol numbers and how they impact your good cholesterol and heart disease risk factors.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Along with staying active, calculate your body mass index (BMI) to help determine whether you have a healthy percentage of body fat. A healthy BMI is under 25 kg/m2. Overweight is defined as a BMI of 25 to 29.9 kg/m2, and obesity is defined as a BMI of 30 kg/m2.
We all have stress but finding healthy ways to manage it, such as with meditation and yoga, will improve your overall health.
Know Your Family History
You have a greater risk of developing heart disease if you have a close family member who had heart disease at an early age.
We want you to keep being superwoman, but don’t forget to take good care of your heart too. Don’t wait – talk to your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms and be aware of your risk factors.