Friday, February 14, 2014

February is Heart Health Month!

February is Heart Health Month!
Olivia, Debbie, & Eamonn @ Kids Matter

“I’m 33 years old and I had a heart attack. More specifically, I had a minor myocardial infarction that was the result of a 99% blockage of the left anterior descending artery… more commonly known as the ‘widow-maker’, since most people do not survive this. Let me preface this with a few facts. There is no history of heart disease in my family. I am generally in good health. I don’t smoke or drink (I’m actually allergic), or use recreational drugs. I am the tree-hugging fruit and weird veggie eater at central office. So, did you hear that February is Heart Health Month?” – Eamonn

Many people consider heart disease a "man's disease," but around the same number of men and women die each year of heart disease in the U.S.  It is the leading cause of death for Caucasian and African American women. According to the Women's Heart Foundation, African American women ages 55 to 64 are two times as likely as Caucasian women to have a heart attack and 35% more likely to suffer from heart disease. Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause about the same number of deaths annually. Almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.  That's why it is so important to have screenings for high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and diabetes. Often, heart disease is not diagnosed until a woman experiences a heart attack, heart failure, a dysrhythmia, or a stroke.

The symptoms of these conditions include:
  • Heart attack: chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, indigestion, heartburn, nausea/vomiting, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, and upper body discomfort.
  • Heart failure: shortness of breath, fatigue, and swelling of the feet/ankles/legs/abdomen.
  • Dysrhythmia: palpitations or fluttering feelings in the chest.
What every woman should know about heart disease:
  • According to the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography & Interventions, one in three women over age twenty have some form of cardiovascular disease. It can strike women at younger ages more than most people think. The risk rises in middle age, especially after menopause.
  • The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention finds that two-thirds of women who have heart attacks never fully recover.
  • The American College of Cardiology says that women who survive their heart attacks are more likely to die during the first year of recovery than men who have a heart attack.
  • The Women's Heart Foundation states that women who smoke are at risk of heart attack 19 years earlier than those who do not smoke.
  • After age 55, women are at an increased risk of high blood pressure, a major contributor to cardiovascular disease. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute says that about one-third of adults in the United States have hypertension.
  • Medical conditions and lifestyle choices that put people at higher risk for heart disease include diabetes, overweight and obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use.

The seven steps to reduce the risk of heart disease
  1. Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure has no symptoms, so you should have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  2. Quit smoking.
  3. Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
  4. Make healthy food choices.
  5. Have your cholesterol and triglycerides checked by your healthcare provider.
  6. Discuss with your healthcare provider whether you should be tested for diabetes.
  7. Lower your stress level and find healthy ways to cope with stress.

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