Twinkies have an infinite shelf life. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started the Great Chicago Fire. Old men have heart attacks. Misconceptions are everywhere. Every year, the American Heart Association designates a day in February to wear red and remind us that woman too get heart disease. In fact, it is the number one killer of women.
And here’s another misconception. Women’s heart attack symptoms are the same as men’s symptoms. Wrong. Women often don’t know they’re having a heart attack, so they don’t show up in the emergency department until well into the attack, and then the outlook doesn't look good.
This February, spread the word about women and heart disease. Know the signs and how to live a more heart-healthy life.
Know the signs. Instead of the crushing chest pain, women’s symptoms are more subtle, like shortness of breath; shoulder, arm, neck or jaw pain; unusual fatigue and even pain between the shoulder blades or abdomen. Women can break into a cold sweat or feel nauseous during a heart attack.
Stay on top of your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar numbers. Ask your primary care physician how often you should get these numbers checked.
Keep or get moving. Consistent exercise burns calories while lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Aim for a brisk 30-minute walk most days of the week.
Eat to health. Dedicate half of your plate to fruits and vegetables: the brighter, the better.
Watch your waist-to-hip ratio. Abdominal fat increases your risk for heart disease and diabetes, so if your shape resembles an apple, not a pear, it’s time to lose that belly fat.
Heed menopause. Women’s estrogen levels drop after menopause, and so does the ratio of good and bad cholesterol—LDL increases and HDL decreases. Remember, you want LDL levels low and HDL levels high. Talk to your primary care physician about natural ways to boost estrogen levels.
Don’t smoke. If you tried quitting and have not had success, get professional help from Meritus Health’s Beat the Pack program (call 301-790-8907 for more information).
Socialization and smarts
It’s no secret. Women like to socialize—and it’s good for our hearts because it relieves life’s daily stressors. On Monday, Feb. 11, Meritus Health combines fun and education with an Evening of Red Wine and Dark Chocolate. You get the scoop on the health benefits of red wine from an expert at the University of Maryland and hear from cardiologist Joseph Reilly, M.D., of Hagerstown Heart, on coronary artery disease. The evening winds down with advice from a Johns Hopkins University psychologist on how to keep sexual desire alive. An evening of laughs and education is yours for only $30 and includes a delicious dinner. Round up your gal pals and call 301-790-8907 to register.
Heart disease isn’t an old man’s disease. To show support and understanding, wear red, take action and commit to fighting this deadly disease. See you on Feb. 11!
By: Anne Gill