The American Heart Association states coronary heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women outranking breast cancer. In order to decrease those numbers, health experts are making all possible efforts to educate women on their heart health.
While heart disease is stealing the lives of about 460,000 women per year, stroke is equally as dangerous for women. Heart disease is a buildup of plaque in the heart arteries. Over time that plaque can rupture, become a blood clot and lead to a heart attack. Instead of the clot damaging the heart, in strokes; it damages the brain.
Heart attack and stroke affect all women, but minority women are especially at risk.
The American Heart Association is making their contribution to women through the Go Red for Women campaign during the month of February. Through information, the association strives to create aware, healthy and proactive women.
Below is vital information women should know that could save their lives.
Heart attack warning signs for women
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath. This feeling may occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs of discomfort. These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
If you or someone you are with has chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the above signs, don’t wait longer than five minutes before calling 9-1-1 for help.
Stroke warning signs
Stroke is a medical emergency. Learn to recognize a stroke, because any delay in treatment can lead to brain damage. Warning signs may include:
• Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
• Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
• Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Not all these warning signs occur in every stroke. If you or someone with you has one or more stroke symptoms that last more than a few minutes, don’t delay! Immediately call 9-1-1 or the EMS number so an ambulance (ideally with advanced life support) can quickly be sent to you.
Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared. It’s very important to take immediate action. If given within three hours of the start of symptoms, a clot-busting drug can reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
Risk factors you can control or treat
These risk factors can be controlled or treated with help from your healthcare professional. You can modify others by changing your lifestyle.
• Blood Pressure
• Physical Activity
Risk factors you can’t control
Unfortunately, there are a number of factors such as age, family history and race, which you can’t control. That’s why it’s so important to understand all of your risk factors, discuss them with your healthcare professional, and address the risk factors that you can control or treat.
• Heredity and race
• Birth Control Pills
• Alcohol and illegal drugs
Five strategies to keep your heart healthy
Don’t smoke or use tobacco products: Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals. Many of these can damage your heart and blood vessels, making them more vulnerable to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
Get Active: Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also reduces stress, which may also be a factor in heart disease.
Eat a heart healthy diet: The diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products that can help protect your heart. Legumes, low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease. Eating fruits and vegetables can not only help prevent heart disease, but also may help prevent cancer.
Maintain a healthy weight: As you put on weight in adulthood, your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Even small reductions in weight can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can decrease your blood pressure, lower your blood cholesterol level and reduce your risk of diabetes.
Get regular health screenings: High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.