So it’s February and thoughts of Valentine’s Day, candy hearts and love float through our minds. But does ‘women and heart disease’ ever cross your mind? February is American Heart Month; a time to specifically focus on our heart health. The fact is, heart disease knows no bounds and women are often unaware of their risk factors and what to do about them.
What are some risk factors?
chronic mental stress
Some risk factors affect women more so than men, like mental stress. For women specifically, uncontrolled chronic mental stress increases your risk of heart disease. Recent research suggests mental stress leads to a constriction of your blood vessels, which eventually decreases the blood supply to your heart. While all of us experience this response, those with heart disease, have a harder time pumping the blood out of our hearts, thereby increasing heart-related events and death.
How do I avoid or manage my stress?
In lieu of magic wands, here are some tips to managing your stress and reducing your heart disease risk.
Identify your stressors—and share them with a trusted friend. Preempt potential pitfalls by being proactive and talking through
Shorten your to-do list. Those lists can haunt us. Be realistic about what you can accomplish as one person in one day.
Remind yourself about what you can and can’t control. Let go of those things that aren’t yours to worry/stress over. Handle those things that you need to.
Be grateful. Jot down or share with a friend, people/events/things that you are grateful about and refer to the list as needed!
Exercise! Make the time to handle your stress by getting those natural endorphins going through regular physical exercise.
What are heart attack symptoms in women?
Heart disease is referred to as the ‘silent killer’ and couldn’t be more true for women. Women’s symptoms include: shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, back or jaw pain and pain in the lower chest/upper abdomen, and commonly get shrugged off. It’s not the typical brutal chest pain we associate with heart attacks in the movies.
What’s being done for women and heart disease?
The American Heart Association began Go Red For Women™ back in 2004. They noticed that although heart disease and stroke are the #1 killer of women, there wasn’t a general awareness or action to do something about it. Go Red For Women™ has impacted countless lives by increasing funding, research, education and programming surrounding women and heart disease. They provide resources to both healthcare professionals and individuals to help women learn their risk and improve their health. The red dress, the initiative’s symbol, serves to promote women’s heart health and remind all of this deadly and often preventable disease. For more information on Go Red For Women events in your area, log onto www.goredforwomen.org.