March 2008: Women: Listen To Your Heart
01 Mar 2008
What is the biggest threat to your health?
It is not breast cancer. According to the American Heart Association, each year heart disease kills more women than all types of cancer combined. Now is the time for women to get educated about their risks for heart disease. Here are the facts:
- Heart disease is just as dangerous for women as for men. It is the leading cause of death in women.
- Heart attack symptoms are often different in women than men.
Understand your risk factors.
Risk factors increase your chances of developing heart disease. Some risk factors can't be changed, such as age and a family history of heart disease. However, the ones listed below can be controlled to help keep your risk for heart disease lower.
- Smoking – Smoking damages blood vessels and raises blood pressure. If you smoke, quit now!
- Diabetes – Diabetes causes high blood sugar, which can damage blood vessels if not kept under control. Having diabetes also makes you more likely to have a silent heart attack—without symptoms. Keep your blood sugar below 100mg/dL.
- Excess weight – Excess weight makes your heart work harder. Being overweight increases your risk of having a heart attack and developing diabetes. Your BMI (body mass index) should not be above 25.
- Hypertension – High blood pressure occurs when blood pushes too hard against artery walls as it travels through the arteries. This damages the lining of the blood vessels. Your risk increases if your blood pressure is above 120/80.
- High Lipid levels – Lipids are fatty substances in the blood. The bad lipids (LDL cholesterol and Triglycerides) can build up in the artery walls and cause narrowing. The good lipids are HDL cholesterol and they help clear the bad lipids away. You are at risk if your HDL is under 50mg/dL; LDL over 100mg/dL (less if you've already been diagnosed with heart disease); Triglycerides over 150mg/dL.
- Lack of exercise – Without regular exercise you are more likely to develop other risk factors such as being overweight and developing diabetes.
- Stress – Stress increases your blood pressure and heart rate. Over time, this can damage the lining of the blood vessels.
Know the signs.
Heart attacks are not necessarily sudden in women. Women may have milder symptoms for one week to four months before a true heart attack. When your heart isn't getting enough oxygen you may experience angina. It isn't the same as a heart attack but it's a sign that you're at risk for having one. Here are some possible symptoms:
- Feeling more tired than usual for no apparent reason.
- Becoming short of breath while doing something that used to be easy.
- Feeling discomfort, pain, aching, tightness or pressure that comes and goes. It may be in the chest, back, abdomen, arm, neck or jaw.
- Having heartburn, nausea or a burning sensation that seems unrelated to diet.
Get heart healthy.
February's focus on the heart is a good excuse to get you in to see a doctor. Your doctor can help to keep you and your heart on a healthy track. Take these steps:
- Talk to your doctor about your symptoms.
- Start an exercise program – even start with walking 10 minutes a day and work up to 30 minutes a day.
- Start eating healthy – read food labels, get a cookbook of heart healthy recipes and get help from a dietitian.
- Quit smoking – pick a date, join a smoking cessation group and talk to your doctor about medications and nicotine replacement products.
- Lose excess weight – keep a record of what you eat, join a supervised weight loss program, work with your doctor to set realistic goals.
- Get tested – know your numbers: cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and BMI.
If you need a doctor, Weiss can help. Call Weiss' physician referral service at (800) 503-1234 and we'll find a physician that's right for you and help set up an appointment to get you on the path to good heart health.