February is Heart Health Month, so we’re trying to get the word out to make sure that everyone, especially women, know and really understand the important facts about heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease, and it is the cause of one in three women’s deaths every year…ONE IN THREE! Here are a few ways that you can help to prevent heart disease:
1. If you smoke, QUIT.
Quitting smoking quickly reduces your risk for coronary artery disease (CAD); within five to 10 years of quitting, your risk of heart attack declines to a level similar to that of people who never smoked, regardless of how long you smoked.
Staying active is very important. You don’t have to be a “gym rat” to keep your heart pumping. Sedentary people who begin a regular program of exercise reduce their risk of a heart attack by 35 to 55 percent. Low-intensity activities, such as gardening or walking, if done regularly and over the long term, can decrease the risk of heart attack.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
As you put on weight in adulthood (and we all do), your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Size does matter!
4. Get regular health screenings.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
5. Add more fish to your diet.
People who eat fish regularly are less like to have heart disease, mainly due to the Omega-3 fatty acids that it contains. Even if you don’t care for fish, you should strongly consider DHA/Omega-3 supplements.
Because millions of Americans are affected by heart disease, it is important that we also know what to look for. Signs and symptoms vary from person to person. Women don’t have the same patterns of symptoms as men do. Men may have chest pain on exertion. Women, on the other hand, may feel chest pressure, indigestion, shortness of breath, or fatigue. As women, we need to know this. Here are few things to keep in mind when it comes to MAJOR WARNING signs of heart attack:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Upper body discomfort in the mouth, jaw, arms, back, neck and/or upper stomach
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats
We can all agree that knowledge is power. Knowing what to look for when it comes to heart disease is extremely important. Some of us think that we are invincible and that it only happens to “older” or “obese” people. Pay attention to all of the warning signs and live your best life. The very life that you save may be your own!
BMWK — What do you do to prevent heart disease?