Approximately 43 million American women have heart disease, though many of them do not even realize. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among Americans, and both men and women need to be aware of their specific risk factors and symptoms, as these can vary by sex. February is American Heart Month, and in recognition of National Wear Red Day—which took place on February 5th to raise awareness for women’s heart health—we’ve compiled some tips to help the females in your life reduce their risk of suffering a heart attack or other cardiac event.
Stress test. Beginning approximately ten years after menopause, women should request a stress test to review the functioning of their heart if they have a family history of heart disease or are obese. Also, women who are planning to start a new exercise regimen—specifically a more intensive one—should first undergo a stress test, as well as those who experience shortness of breath or the sensation of pressure on their chest when walking uphill.
Reduce stress. Emotional stress is a larger risk factor for women than it is for men when it comes to heart disease and cardiac events, so it is important to manage and reduce this stress. Some natural ways to ease emotional stress include exercises like yoga and Pilates, as well as mindful meditation.
Know your symptoms. The symptoms of heart attack for women differ than men’s, meaning a woman who is suffering a heart attack may not realize at first, as the most well-known symptoms—including shooting pain in the left are—are more common in men. Women should be on the lookout for chest pain that radiates into the jaw, shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and extreme fatigue.
Limit alcohol consumption. A glass of wine or two won’t hurt you, and may even help to boost good cholesterol. However, overconsumption and binge drinking can cause heart arrhythmias, an enlarged heart, and increase your risk of stroke. Be mindful of how much you drink in order to help protect yourself from heart disease and cardiac events.
Prevent blood clots. Sitting for a long time without moving can increase your risk of suffering from blood clots that could potentially clog an artery and result in a heart attack. This is especially of concern during long flights where it is hard to move around. If you are stuck on a plane for an extended period of time, ensure you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and try to move your legs around to increase circulation. Once the plane is in the air and it is safe to do so, walk through the aisles to help encourage proper circulation and blood flow.
Women are especially at risk of heart attacks and heart disease, and to prevent these conditions from developing, it is important to get tested if you have any risk factors or are planning to undertake a strenuous task. You need to know your symptoms of heart attack, as these can vary by sex. Limit alcohol intake, reduce emotional stress, and take care to prevent blood clots that may occur from sitting too long.