Top Tips for Staying Heart Healthy
February is American Heart Month and at Women’s Health Texas, we believe in treating the whole patient. In the United States, almost one in four women dies from heart disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health. The risk of developing heart disease increases as women age, particularly after menopause. Premenopausal women are also at risk for cardiovascular disease if they have cardiac risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, elevated cholesterol and family history of heart disease. Women’s Health Texas is devoted to women, and we want our patients to know how they can reduce their risk of developing heart disease.
Women and heart attacks
Heart attack symptoms in women are usually very different from those experienced by men. Many women who are experiencing heart attack symptoms do not know it. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), women tend to feel a burning sensation in their upper abdomen and may experience lightheadedness, an upset stomach, and sweating. Because they may not feel the typical pain in the left half of their chest, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.
Here are the warning signs of a heart attack, according to the AHA:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Heart disease risk factors
Heart disease is preventable, here are our top tips for staying heart healthy:
- Quit smoking – did you know that just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of heart disease by 50 percent?
- Keep a low blood pressure – the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries can damage your heart, causing health problems if it stays high for a long time.
- Lower your blood cholesterol – As cholesterol (plaque) builds up in the arteries, the arteries begin to narrow, which lessens or blocks the flow of blood to your heart.
- Maintain a healthy weight – obesity contributes to heart disease because it causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and puts you at risk for diabetes, which can also cause heart disease.
- Inactivity – Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Other factors that play a role in heart disease for women that are different than men include:
- Stress and Depression – Stress and depression affect women’s hearts more than men’s. Depression makes it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle and follow recommended treatment.
- Menopause – low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk of developing disease in smaller blood vessels.
Having just one risk factor raises your chance of having heart-related problems. The more risk factors you have, the more likely you are to develop cardiovascular disease – and the more concerned you should be about protecting your heart health. Women’s Health Texas recommends seeing your health care provider for an annual preventive exam. At this visit, you will be evaluated for changes in your weight, blood pressure and overall health.