“Heart disease continues to be the number one killer; cancer, the number 2 killer, not far behind. The tragic aspect of these deadly diseases is that they could all be cured, I do believe, if we had sufficient funding.” Arlen Specter
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined.
Heart disease causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute.
An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease.
90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease.
The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood.
While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease.
Only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.
Women comprise only 24 percent of participants in all heart-related studies.
What do you know about Heart Disease? February is American Heart Month and it behooves us all to join forces with Go Red for Women, the American Heart Association (AHA), Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes for Health (NIH), National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the Office on Women’s Health (OWH), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to raise awareness about heart disease; it is an insidious disease that claims the lives of thousands of men and women every year. Did you know that 735,000 Americans suffer a heart attack every year and that 610,000 will die from heart disease? Did you know that a heart attack can show up differently for a man versus a woman? When we take time to educate ourselves, we put our family and friends in a greater position to survive a possible heart attack. Why? Because 1 in 4 people in America will have a heart attack this year and you don’t want to become a statistic.
According to the CDC, in the US alone, Coronary artery disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease and, unfortunately, the first sign some of us get is a heart attack. Yet, there are steps we can take to prevent or manage heart issues and tips we can use to help us live longer lives. Over the years, there has been tremendous research and education to help us find ways to create and maintain a heart healthy lifestyle. However, no amount of research can overcome poor lifestyle habits. If we continue to run ourselves ragged, eat poorly, skip exercise and remain in stressful conditions, we open a pathway for a heart attack. We must do the work to improve our health and it begins with us. Yes US! We must make an extra effort to change our bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyle as a fundamental way to increase our chances of surviving a stroke or heart attack.
“Too many U.S. adults have a heart age years older than their real age, increasing their risk of heart disease and stroke. Everybody deserves to be young – or at least not old – at heart.” Tom Frieden
An estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease. Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease. Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. The symptoms of heart disease can be different in women and men, and are often misunderstood. While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies of heart disease. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for African American women. Of African American women ages 20 and older, 46.9 percent have cardiovascular disease. Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.” NHLBI/NIH
What can we do about it? Here are a number of tips to help us along the path to a healthier heart.
1. EXERCISE – Move your body and shift from a sedentary lifestyle to one that includes daily activity. Even a walk around the block is a start and we can grow from there to doing more cardio friendly exercises by hiring a trainer, joining a gym, taking up yoga or even going dancing with friends. According to the American Heart Association, each hour spent on regular exercise gives us two hours back on our life expectancy. So movement is key to increasing our lifespan and getting us back in shape.
2. HEALTHY FOODS – We can’t say it enough that a low fat diet helps lower our total and bad cholesterol levels. When we include servings of fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy proteins to our diet, we increase our energy levels and provide our bodies with the nutrients needed for health, recovery and longevity. Equally important is hydration and food portion control. We can eat healthy foods by shopping with a list, creating menus in advance and paying attention to how much we eat. I believe in moderation with everything so there is no need to feel deprived… moderate your consumption.
3. REDUCE STRESS – Stress is a contributor to heart disease and so we need as many health tips as we can handle to help us reduce it. The most important gift we can give ourselves is to take that first step to eliminate or reduce stressful situations in our lives. Family, work, financial, and health issues can push our stress levels through the roof so, it is important to pay attention to those triggers and contain them. Managing stress is important for our mental health—and heart health, too! Take 10 minutes to de-stress by meditating, practicing deep yogic breathing, taking a stroll, a soothing bath or simple stretching exercises. Encourage family members by reminding them to set aside time to de-stress.
4. KNOW YOUR NUMBERS – When was the last time you had a check up? Schedule one today. It is imperative that we take the time to make sure that we have our regular, annual check ups/Women’s Visits, and that we make sure that we are screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, Blood Sugar, BMI (Body Mass Index), and get an electrocardiogram (ECG). We must also take every chest pain and discomfort seriously and seek medical help immediately.
5. KNOW THE SIGNS – While men and women might experience a heart attack differently, there are some common signs that we should all know to help us make an educated decision for ourselves and our loved ones. Here are some to note: Chest pain/discomfort, Pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach. Shortness of breath. Nausea. Cold Sweats, Lightheadedness or disorientation. If you feel strange sensations or discomfort, be proactive and seek medical help. It is always best to be safe than sorry. Listen to some CDC podcasts for more information.
6. GET EDUCATED AND TESTED – The more access we have to information on heart disease and the various treatments available on the marketplace, the better able we will be to make an informed decisions for ourselves and others. Routine tests might be sufficient unless you have a family history or predisposition to heart disease then you can discuss that with your health provider. Be a strong advocate for your own health and dont be afraid to ask lots of questions and, if necessary, seek a second opinion. It can help you save a life and that life might be your own. Take the CDC heart disease quiz and test your heart health knowledge!
“My father had a heart attack and he has heart disease. He had a full recovery, and I’m very lucky, but it certainly made him look at the way he’s living and how he’s treating his body.” Cheryl Hines
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for African American women.
Of African American women ages 20 and older, 46.9 percent have cardiovascular disease
Only 1 in 5 African American women thinks she is personally at risk.
Nearly 50 percent of African American women are aware of the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Only 43 percent of African American know that heart disease is their greatest health risk.
These statistics represent only a fraction of the 2012 report featured in Circulation. To view the full findings, download a copy of the Heart Disease and Stroke 2012 Statistical Update
Hispanic women are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than Caucasian women.
Only 1 in 3 Hispanic women are aware that heart disease is their No. 1 killer.
Only 3 in 10 Hispanic women say they have been informed that they are at a higher risk.
Only 1 in 4 Hispanic women is aware of treatment options.
Hispanic women are more likely to take preventive actions for their family when it comes to heart health.
What other tips can we use? 7. GET INVOLVED We can donate or volunteer our time, participate in local events that raise awareness about heart disease and share the invaluable toolkit/resources that NHLBI provides. We can participate in local/global initiatives and spread the word. We can be proactive by reaching out to our elected officials to demand support for equitable resources for us all. Even having a conversation with our friends and family about this is a terrific idea. To reiterate the information covered, Go Red for Women Campaign, wants us all to remember the following lifesaving tips:
What are you waiting for? Get your heart health in order today
For More: Women’s Lives & Issues
Have a heart healthy weekend!
Positive Motivation Tip: Your heart is precious. Care for your heart and make sure your family does too.