If you’re a woman, you’re probably a pro at taking care of other people in your life. But when it comes to taking care of your own heart, you likely don’t give it a second thought.
Many women don’t place much importance on caring for their hearts for two primary reasons: they don’t have time in their busy lives and they don’t think they have a reason to worry about their heart. After all, isn’t heart disease a man’s disease?
Heart disease is not something that just happens to older men. In fact, heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. Here are some important things women need to know about heart disease and how it may affect their lives:
- 1 in every 3 deaths in women can be attributed to heart disease and the disease claims more lives than breast cancer and lung cancer combined.
- 90% of women have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Women are less likely to survive their first heart attack than men.
- Symptoms of a heart attack can be different in women than in men. Knowing the warning signs makes it more likely you’ll seek medical help before it’s too late.
- About 80% of cardiac events may be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes.
Here are some tips for keeping your ticker in tip-top shape:
Know The Risk Factors
Both men and women are at an increased risk of heart disease when they have these risk factors: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and being overweight or obese. Some factors play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women compared to men though. These include:
- Lack of physical activity
- Inflammatory disease, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
- Pregnancy-related high blood pressure or diabetes
Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
One of the best ways to avoid a heart attack or stroke is to lower your risk by living a healthier lifestyle. To do this, you should:
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat a healthy diet. Include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products and heart-healthy fat. Limit sugar, sodium and trans fat.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week and strength train at least twice weekly.
- Quit smoking if you smoke.
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor to assess your personal risk for heart disease.
- Take medications prescribed by your doctor to control risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Know The Symptoms
Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms that look different than the telltale crushing chest pain depicted in movies. Some women will have the most common heart attack symptom, chest pain, but they may experience these less obvious symptoms:
- Pain, pressure or discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arm, back or abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Upset stomach, nausea or vomiting
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Extreme fatigue
No matter what your gender – or your age – it’s important to pay attention to your heart. Take steps now to keep your heart healthy and know the warning signs in case you experience a cardiac-related event so you can get help quickly. Positive action and knowledge are important weapons in the fight against heart disease.