February: Go Red for Women
Heart disease strikes more women than men and it claims the lives of one in three women each year. Because of healthy choices and knowing the signs to watch for, more than 627,000 women have been saved from heart disease, and 330 fewer are dying per day.
With the right information, education and care, heart disease in women can be treated, prevented and even ended. Heart disease affects women of all ages. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the risks do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. But even if you lead a completely healthy lifestyle, being born with an underlying heart condition can be a risk factor.
Many things can put you at risk for heart disease, some you can control, and others that you can’t. The American Heart Association studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Here are a few lifestyle changes you should make:
• Don’t smoke.
• Manage your blood sugar (come to one of our free Diabetes screenings).
• Get and keep your blood pressure under control.
• Lower your cholesterol. • Know your family history.
• Stay active.
• Lose weight.
• Eat healthy.
The American Heart Association recommends you start getting your cholesterol checked at age 20, or earlier, if your family has a history of heart disease. And while you’re at it, be sure to keep an eye on your blood pressure at your next check-up.
Sixty-four percent of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms. Because women’s symptoms vary greatly from men’s, they’re often misunderstood. The media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But in reality, women are somewhat more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.
Learn more about heart health at the Jefferson County Health Center at noon Feb 28 when cardiologist Nick Walker will be speaking on Heart Health for everyone. The program is sponsored by the Jefferson County Health Center Auxiliary.
Joneane Parker, RN, BSN, is vice president of clinical services at the Jefferson County Health Center.