Quick question…what’s the leading cause of death in women? You’re probably thinking breast cancer, but you’d be wrong.
That’s the number one myth; it’s actually heart disease. Heart disease and stroke cause 1/3 of deaths in women. That’s one woman dying every 80 seconds. Go Red for Women is the national movement of the American Heart Association to raise awareness that heart disease and stroke is the number one killer of women.
Other Common Myths about Women and Heart Health:
- “Heart Disease won’t affect me—I’m too young!” Heart disease affects women of all ages. Young women increase their risk greatly by smoking while on the Pill. Some women escalate their risk by being overweight, eating the opposite of heart-healthy and by drinking too much alcohol. Others have an underlying condition they were born with but may not know about.
- “I won’t get heart disease! I exercise!” While exercising regularly keeps your heart fit, it can’t totally compensate for other lifestyle habits like stress, smoking and poor eating habits.
- “I don’t have heart disease—I’ve never felt better!” Did you know 64% of women who die suddenly of a heart attack had NO previous symptoms? Crazy but true. And what often throws people off is that the symptoms of a heart attack in women are different from men. Extreme fatigue is one symptom—which is easy to overlook because women are often so busy taking care of everyone else, they put themselves as the last priority!
- “I can only eat chicken breast and fish on a heart-healthy diet.” A variety of protein sources is your best bet, and that not only includes vegan options, but also eggs, lean pork and beef! Research from Pennsylvania State University showed a 10% decrease in LDL cholesterol in people following the BOLD diet, which included 4 to 5 ounces of lean beef daily. The BOLD Diet (Beef in an Optimal Lean Diet) lowered cholesterol as much as the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.)
Yes You Can– Prevent Heart Disease!#Heartdisease is the number one killer of women. Find out how to cut your risk here. #GoRedforWomen Click To Tweet
No matter your age, it’s never too late to start on the road to healthier heart health.
- Know Your Numbers. Total and HDL cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI. If your numbers don’t meet the goal, make a plan. And discuss with your HCP. I’ve found they are sometimes a bit too laid back about the numbers.
- See your Care Provider. Even when you feel healthy, an annual checkup is the best way to track your numbers. Be sure to follow up with your primary care provider or a specialist if referred.
- Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet. Veggies and fruits should fill half your plate, followed by a variety of lean protein and whole grains. Eating fish at least twice a week is also a plus for heart and brain health. Going meatless also has health benefits. Low fat dairy like milk and yogurt are good for bone health and blood pressure. Keep tabs on sodium; with a goal of no more than 1500 to 2000 mg per day. Watch portion sizes and keep saturated fat, trans fat and processed foods to a minimum. Get closer to your ideal weight if needed.
- Keep blood pressure at normal levels. High blood pressure–called the silent killer because there are no symptoms unless your blood pressure is very high. But even when you don’t feel it, elevated blood pressure damages blood vessels and the heart, leading to heart disease.
- Eat Your Chocolate. Flavonols, the antioxidants in cocoa, benefit both blood pressure and heart health. The secret is eating the write type of chocolate in the right (read moderate) amount. (In other words, don’t eat that molten chocolate cake with whip cream for dessert in the name of heart health!) Dark chocolate and undutched cocoa have the most flavonols—limit to once ounce a day. And here’s a healthy quick bread recipe from chef and registered dietitian Katie Cavuto at www.nourishbreathethrive.com. Enjoy!
Typical Warning Signs of Heart Attack in Women
Well known heart attack symptoms include chest pain and radiating discomfort in the left arm. But there are symptoms that are more common in women. Besides the ones listed below, trust your intuition. If you just don’t feel normal, get checked.
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular pain in the lower or upper back
- Jaw, neck, arm or stomach pain.
- Nausea, vomiting, lightheadedness, breaking into a cold sweat
- Extreme fatigue