February is Heart Month and Feb. 7 was Go Red for Women Day. Mark the month by learning the facts about heart disease in women and what you can do to prevent and treat it.
In the United States, heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death in women — one in four women will die from heart disease.
Woman are particularly susceptible to heart disease for several reasons.
• SYMPTOMS: While men usually experience chest pain as their predominate symptom, many women have no chest pain. Women are more likely to suffer with shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pressure, dizziness, lightheadedness, upper-back pressure or fatigue.
• FAMILY FOCUS: Women tend to focus on their families’ needs first, putting their own needs lower in importance. So women with these symptoms tend to take an aspirin and continue doing what they’re doing — driving their kids to sports practice, taking their child to the doctor’s office, making dinner for the family.
• STRESS: The multi-tasking that most women do in managing their families and their jobs results in constant stress. Stress is known to be a contributing factor to the development of heart disease.
Go Red for Women Day was created to help educate the public about the impact of this deadly disease on women and what they can do to decrease their risk. Here are some things you can do to improve your chances of having a healthy heart:
• STOP SMOKING: Smoking speeds the progression of heart disease, as well as damaging your lungs, kidneys and bones. There are many different ways to help you stop smoking. Your doctor can help you sort out which is best for you.
• KEEP WEIGHT DOWN: Obesity increases risk of early heart disease as well as contributing to diabetes and high blood pressure. Decrease the fat in your diet and increase the numbers of fruits and vegetables you eat every day. Add some daily exercise, and you are on your way to a slimmer body and a healthier heart and lungs.
• EXERCISE: Exercise slows the progress of heart disease and helps with the management of your weight, diabetes and blood pressure. Try taking a walk with friends after dropping your kids at school, or take the family for a walk after dinner. Play a video game with your family that incorporates physical activity.
• VISIT YOUR DOCTOR: Use visits to make sure your blood pressure and cholesterol level are under control.
Finally, if you experience shortness of breath, fatigue, chest or abdominal pressure, lightheadedness or dizziness or upper0back pressure, see your doctor immediately. If the symptoms worry you, take an aspirin and dial 911.
Know the facts about heart disease in women and share them with important women in your life. Know your risk and work to decrease that risk. Share what you know with your girlfriends, sisters, mother and daughters. If we all work together, we can put an end to heart disease.
(Dr. Chaudhary is a cardiologist and Jeanne Streeter is a nurse practitioner in the Wellsville Cardiology office, affiliated with the University of Rochester Medical Center.)