This Valentine’s Day, consider a gift to yourself: the gift of a healthy heart.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women: One in four women in the U.S. dies of heart disease (compared to one in 30 for breast cancer).
An astonishing 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have one or more risk factors for heart disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Having one or more risk factors dramatically increases a woman’s chance of developing heart disease because risk factors tend to worsen each other’s effects. In fact, having just one risk factor doubles your chance of developing heart disease.
Learn your risk for heart disease and make your heart health a priority.
Heart disease is most likely to affect post-menopausal women, though younger women can also be at risk. Women of all ages can make healthy lifestyle choices to reduce their risk, says Dr. Alice Suchomel-Olson, who cares for patients in the Emergency Department and Urgent Care - Lakeville. “I always advocate primary prevention strategies: Keep cholesterol low; don’t smoke; maintain a healthy weight through exercise and a nutritious diet that’s low in sodium, trans fats and sugars; and control chronic conditions such as diabetes and hypertension that increase your risk of heart disease.”
Women should also know the signs of a heart attack, which can be different for women than men:
- Upper body pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck, jaw or upper part of the stomach
- Chest pain, discomfort, pressure or squeezing, like there’s a ton of weight on you
- Shortness of breath
- Light-headedness or sudden dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.
If you have a heart attack, Emergency Medical Technicians arriving with the ambulance can begin diagnosis and treatment right away if needed. Once at the hospital, your care team may do an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG, which measure the rate and regularity of your heartbeat) to see if you’ve had a heart attack; the test may take around 90 minutes. You’ll get blood tests, which can determine the extent of damage to the heart by measuring substances released into the blood when heart cells die. These tests may be repeated over time to check for changes. Once your condition is stable, your doctor will talk with you about next steps, which may involve more testing, seeing a specialist, taking medication, and lifestyle changes.
Caring for your heart improves your overall health. Know your risks, know the signs, and take control of your heart health today!