February is Heart Month, and White Plains Hospital has some information for Loop readers, particularly women:
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. Yet, heart disease continues to be considered a “mostly male health issue.” Because of this misconception, women who are experiencing signs of a heart attack often don’t seek the immediate, life-saving care they need.
We’ve all seen the symptoms of a heart attack dramatized on TV. A man screams out, grabs his arm, and loses his balance. While this can occur, in women the symptoms of a heart attack are often more subtle. In fact, it is common for women to wait more than six hours after first feeling the symptoms of a heart attack before going to the ER, as they believe they are experiencing non life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu, or normal aging.
What are the signs of a heart attack in women?
Women can feel chest pain, but more often will feel a little chest tightness or some weakness, shortness of breath, or pain anywhere in the upper body, like the back of the neck or jaw, dizziness, nausea or fainting. Surprisingly, chest pain is absent in 43% of women having heart attack. This is a primary reason why women delay seeking treatment or calling 9-1-1. It is important for women to know the signs, and to seek help immediately for any troubling symptoms.
Women continue to lag behind men in getting screened for heart disease. According to the AHA, almost two-thirds (64%) of women who die suddenly from coronary heart disease exhibit no previous symptoms. This is why physicians and cardiologists stress the importance of regular cardiac screening for women.
Lower Your Risk
Lifestyle changes can greatly impact heart health in women. According to the AHA, nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented, yet heart disease continues to be a woman’s greatest health threat. To combat this threat, you should consider the following recommendations:
- Schedule an appointment with a medical professional to discuss your personal risk for a heart attack.
- Don’t smoke, or quit now – By quitting smoking, you cut your risk of coronary heart disease by about 50%
- Exercise moderately (or as advised by your medical professional) – The typical recommendation is 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity. Anything that gets you moving counts, so walk, take the stairs, or park far away and walk to the store. Then, as your body is able to accept a higher level of activity, move more.
- Eat a well-balanced diet – Avoid processed foods and stick to natural, whole foods. We recommend a Mediterranean diet, including lean meat and healthy snacks, for optimal heart health.
While it’s frightening to know that someone dies of a heart attack every 43 seconds, this statistic can be reversed. Make February your month to get heart healthy. Know the symptoms of heart disease, get screened, and practice prevention.