Go Red

Preventing Heart Disease

 

 

Each year approximately 600,000 people in the US die of heart disease.  It is the leading cause of death for both men and women.  Coronary heart disease is the most common, taking the lives of nearly 380,000 people annually.

Approximately 720,000 Americans experience a heart attack, with coronary heart disease costs reaching $108.9 billion each year (includes health care services, medications and lost productivity).  It is the leading cause of death for most ethnic groups, including African Americans, Hispanics and Caucasians. 

 Definition - Heart disease describes a variety of conditions that affect your heart.  This term is “used interchangeably with the term ‘cardiovascular disease.’ ” It “generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina), or stroke.  Other heart conditions, such as those that affect the heart muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease.” mayoclinic.org

 Know Your Risk – 47% of sudden cardiac deaths occur outside a hospital.  This suggests that most people don’t understand all the risks to act on early warning signs.

        Some major warning signs and symptoms

  • Chest pain
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper abdomen
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, lightheadedness or cold sweats
  • Undue fatigue

        Risk Factors include

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Overweight or Obese
  • Poor diet
  • Physical inactivity
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • High cholesterol
  • Underlying heart condition

Women and Heart Disease - Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year.  That’s much greater than the average number of women who die from breast cancer (1 in 31) annually.  Since 1984, deaths from heart related diseases have affected more women than men.  And the gap between men and women’s survival rates continue to widen.  It doesn’t affect all women the same and the warning signs in women are different.

        Myths

  • Heart disease is a threat for men, cancer is a threat for women – heart disease claims 1 in 3 women’s lives each year, cancer claims 1 in 31. It is more deadly than all forms of cancer.
  • Heart disease is for old people – it affects women of all ages.  For younger women, birth control pills and smoking boosts the risks by 20%.  Risks do increase with age, but overeating and being inactive can cause plague to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries in later life. 
  • Heart disease doesn’t affect those women who exercise regularly – regular exercise doesn’t necessarily mean your risk is eliminated.  Things like high cholesterol, eating habits and smoking can counterbalance healthy habits.  Being thin doesn’t mean you are not at risk.  Family history also plays a role.
  • Absence of symptoms – 65% of women who die suddenly had no previous symptoms.  While most of us believe that chest pain is the main sign of a heart attack, the reality is that women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, or back or jaw pain.  Other symptoms could include dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, lower chest pain, upper abdomen pain and extreme fatigue.
  • I can’t change my family history – women with a family history of heart disease are at higher risk, but you can work to dramatically reduce your risks.  Create an action plan to keep your heart healthy.

        Prevention

  • Reduce stress
  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage your blood sugar
  • Monitor you blood pressure
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Know your family history
  • Stay active
  • Lose weight
  • Eat healthy

                Silent Heart Attack – the symptoms of heart attack are not always obvious.  A heart attack can happen without a person knowing it.  Victims are more likely to have non-specific symptoms, such as indigestion, feeling like they have a “case of the flu” or a strained muscle in their chest or upper back.  Chest discomfort, pain in the upper jaw, upper back or arms can also be symptoms. 

 Be Aware, Be Informed and Go Red! Join The American Heart Association’s Go Red campaign against Women’s Heart Disease.

Sources:

Mayo Clinic - Heart Disease Basics

CDC - Heart Disease Facts

Go Red for Women - Heart Disease Facts

Go Red for Women - Myths

Go Red for Women - Prevention

 Go Red for Women - Silent Heart Attack Symptoms and Risks

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