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Getting to the Heart of Women's Health

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Heart disease struck home for me when my father had a heart attack while I was in college. After that, my brother went for emergency bypass surgery at just age 40 after some complaints of chest pain as well. It all happened so suddenly but he was blessed to have good doctors who listened to his concerns, and our family was lucky enough to recognize the symptoms and go to their physicians to obtain the life-saving surgeries they need.  As a result of this exposure to heart disease within my own family, I began to play closer attention to heart disease as a whole.

Heart Disease in Men vs. Women

Cardiovascular disease doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t the same as they are in men. There are several misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting women at risk. It’s common to have the most serious facts be the first ones you hear: Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year, cardiovascular disease claims the life of a woman about every 80 seconds, and so on. However scary these statistics might seem, it’s important to know that 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.

I consider it my personal and professional obligation to address heart risks in women, and a great way to do that is the American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative, Go Red for Women. It’s a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness and serve as a catalyst for change to improve the lives of women globally. It’s about all women making a commitment to stand together and taking charge of their own heart health as well as the health of their loved ones.

So Where Can You Start?

As a jumping off point, here’s some important education that you can take a dip into to start your journey towards better heart health, both now and for the future: 

  • All women need to have regular screening tests for diabetes and cholesterol levels and to have their blood pressure and weight measured
    • When and how often you should have these tests depends on your age and risk factors.
    • Know your family history. For example, do you have family history of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, kidney disease, arrhythmia, etc.?
    • What preventive measures do you take? Keep your weight at the recommended level for your body type, stay active, eat whole and heart healthy foods, avoid smoking and recreational drugs and limit alcohol use.
  • Women’s heart health greatly affects women’s reproductive health and their menstrual cycles as well.
  • A good starting goal for exercise is at least 150 minutes a week – just 20 minutes a day. But if you don’t want to sweat the numbers, just move more! Find forms of exercise you like and will stick with and build more opportunities to be active into your routine.

Visit GoRedForWomen.org to learn more and take the first step on your journey towards better heart health!