Heart disease is often known as the silent killer because its first symptom can be death, according to the Go Red for Women Organization, an organization whose goal is to educate women about heart disease.
We all know women who go above and beyond in everything they do. Unfortunately, putting others before themselves means they sometimes neglect their own health. Here are some tips for keeping the women in your life happy and healthy for years to come.
Know the signs and symptoms of heart disease
While both men and women often experience some type of chest pain during a heart attack, for women it may not be the most noticeable indication that something is wrong. Other symptoms women are more likely to feel include:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusual fatigue
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal pain
- Pain in one or both arms
One or more of these symptoms combined with a feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest could indicate a cardiac event. Any woman experiencing these symptoms should immediately call 911.
Manage your blood pressure
Women over age 65 are more likely than men to develop high blood pressure, which is one of the contributing factors to heart disease. Birth control pills, pregnancy, stress and being postmenopausal are also risk factors for high blood pressure, which explains why it's so important for women to know what they can do to manage their blood pressure effectively.
While some risk factors for high blood pressure are beyond your control (such as race, increasing age and family history), the American Heart Association suggests these tips for controlling blood pressure:
- Don't smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Consume less than 1,500 mg/day of salt (sodium)
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day
- Be more physically active
- Keep track of your blood pressure over time
Normal blood pressure is anything less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. Many grocery stores and fitness centers offer self-serve blood pressure monitors so you can track your blood pressure and recognize when it's elevated.
Learn about broken heart syndrome
Women are more likely than men to experience broken heart syndrome which is a temporary heart condition that's often brought on by stressful situations, such as the death of a loved one.
The onset of extreme stress disrupts the pumping function of one section of the heart while the rest of the heart continues pumping, even pumping harder than usual. This disruption leads to the kind of chest pain that is often associated with a heart attack. Fortunately, this is a temporary condition that generally resolves with treatment in a few days or weeks.
While broken heart syndrome may not be entirely preventable, learning to cope with stress can help lower your risk of developing it. Identify your support system and reach out when you start feeling overwhelmed, especially if you're coping with grief, a life-threatening medical diagnosis, job loss, divorce or domestic abuse.
Schedule an annual checkup
Women should bring up their heart health at each of their annual visits with their doctors. Your primary care physician will almost certainly listen to your heart to check for murmurs or other audible cardiac complaints but will rely on your description of your symptoms to make an accurate diagnosis.
Between visits, keep a chart, a list or a journal of your health complaints and any possible symptoms you may identify. This can help your doctor immensely as he or she works with you to develop an adequate treatment plan for your heart health.
Cardiac Care Group also suggests making a list of your current medications, your health care providers and any health issues present in your medical history. This will help your providers to come up with a plan that meets all your health needs.
Ready to get your heart in shape? Contact Cardiac Care Group today to schedule a new patient visit and to meet with a doctor who can help.