Heart disease is the leading killer of women. One in 3 women die each year—many from heart attacks because they didn’t recognize the symptoms. Most people associate a heart attack with sudden severe chest pain and pain radiating down the left arm, but women often experience milder symptoms that go untreated. Nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented just by knowing what to look for and making lifestyle changes.
Know the Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Women
According to the American Heart Association, women may experience the following symptoms:
- Discomfort or pain in the chest that can last more than a few minutes, or go away and come back.
- Difficulty breathing a few weeks before experiencing a heart attack,
- Irregular pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, and/or
- Flu-like symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue, in the weeks and days before a heart attack.
Trust your intuition if you are not feeling normal and seek medical care.
Take Action to Prevent Heart Disease
Knowing your risk factors and taking action is the first step in preventing heart disease. Here are some suggestions for shifting towards a heart healthy lifestyle. Remember to start off slow—choose one behavior and build up slowly to achieve your goal.
- Quit smoking and try to avoid secondhand smoke as well.
- Get active. You want to move for 150 minutes per week.
- Manage your stress by balancing work, family and personal time.
- Get annual check-ups to monitor your blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart health. Learn about your family’s medical history, especially related to heart disease.
- Adjust your diet.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables, which can help you consume less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.
- Control your portions—overloading your plate and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you need.
- Eat more whole grains like whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice.
- Be picky about your fats. Choose healthy monounsaturated fats (olive oil or canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds). Eat less saturated and trans fats by limiting butter, margarine and shortening in your diet, and trimming fat off your meat.
- Choose low-fat protein sources like lean meats, poultry without the skin, heart-healthy fish, low-fat dairy products, and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.
- Use less salt—this includes salt you add while cooking or sitting at the table, and the salt from canned or processed foods, such as soups and frozen dinners. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.
As women, we tend to be the caregivers and put others ahead of ourselves. However, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others. Now is the time to make your health a priority! To learn more, get more tips, and make a commitment pledge, go to https://www.goredforwomen.org/.