Monday, January 30, 2012

A Tale of Two Hearts

     If you listen to pop lyrics, women are survivors and we rule the world. In fact, we’re good at being all things to all people. But women, says cardiologist Robert Marshall, MD, often self-sacrifice, put up with hardship, and push through heart disease symptoms. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women, yet only half of us recognize it as our greatest health risk. In fact, many of us think of heart disease as a man’s disease. How many of you can relate to this video?

     Not only do we have heart attacks, but also our heart disease is different from men’s. First, our arteries are smaller than men’s are and can hold less plaque (cholesterol build up). We also have menopause working against us. Once our estrogen drops, our ratio of good and bad cholesterol changes – LDL, the “bad” cholesterol, increases and HDL, the “good” cholesterol, decreases.

     Plus, we might not get that we’re experiencing a heart attack. Instead of the crushing chest pain, our symptoms are more subtle – like shortness of breath; shoulder, arm, neck, or jaw pain; and even pain between the shoulder blades or in the abdomen. Women are also known to break into a cold sweat or feel nauseous during a heart attack.

     So between these unusual symptoms and our self-sacrificing natures, we often delay going to the doctor, and the disease gets worse. Sounds a little hopeless, doesn’t it? Actually, the glass is half full. We just need to get active, eat right, manage our stress, and buy a red dress. 

     Let’s start with activity. Bottom line: you have to find time to exercise. If you think you don’t have time, check out the video in this blog post. Consistent exercise burns calories while lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. Talk about a bang for your buck! The trick is finding an activity that you love to do (hint: walking is easy and cheap).

     Next up: examine your plate and waist. Dr. Marshall recommends that veggies cover 70% of the plate, and protein and carbs (whole grain) take up only 30% of the space. And instead of watching the scale, pay attention to your waist-to-hip ratio, since extra weight around the middle (versus hips) increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes.

     Now, what about managing stress and buying a red dress? That’s where National Wear Red Day and An Evening of Red Wine and Dark Chocolate come into play. An Evening of Red Wine and Dark Chocolate is an event to raise awareness of heart disease in women. It’s also a chance for you to get out with your gal pals, decked out in your favorite LRD (little red dress)! You see, heart trouble is higher in people who don’t reach out to others when they’re stressed. Plus, you’ll to get the scoop on the health benefits of red wine (can it really increase good cholesterol?) and find out if dark chocolate really lowers blood pressure.

     Ladies, doing right by our hearts boils down to eating right, physical activity, and finding me time.

By Anne Gill

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