Hey Ladies - It's Time To Love Your Heart!
From Jessica Goltz,
Crossing Rivers Health Service Excellence Coordinator
Certified Wellness Coach
My father had his first heart attack at the age of thirty-five. He was flown by helicopter to a Top 100 Cardiac Hospital where he received his first open heart surgery. I was just a little girl at the time and oblivious to the fact that women had a high incidence of inheriting heart disease from their fathers.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that my doctor felt it would be necessary to check my cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is a protein in the blood that is associated with an increased risk for heart disease.
The results were shocking! My Total Cholesterol was 299 mg/dL, way above the normal range of 200 mg/dL. My doctor also checked a lab test called Lipoprotein (a). This blood test assesses the risk factor for having a heart attack or stroke. Mine was 95, again way above the normal range of less than 50.
I was at high risk for having a heart attack and had absolutely no idea.
Fortunately, I was able to lower my cholesterol by changing my diet. I am now much more aware of the need to educate women and encourage them to be proactive with their own heart health.
Women's heart attack symptoms and risk factors
Although heart attacks are common in both men and women, the symptoms are not always the same. In women, symptoms of a heart attack are often more subtle and not as obvious.
Symptoms may include:
- Upper back or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in one or both arms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Unusual fatigue
The same goes for risk factors. Though many risk factors are the same in both genders, women who have diabetes, stress, depression, pregnancy complications or lack of physical activity, are at greater risk. However, you can lower your risk by taking the following measures:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Diet plays an important role in reducing your overall risk factor. Not only does a balanced diet help to maintain a healthy weight, it also keeps blood pressure down and aids in healthy cholesterol levels. It’s important to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. Including foods that are high in Omega 3’s is also a great way to lower your risk. These are foods such as fish, nuts, seeds and hemp hearts.
- Get active: Just 30 minutes of physical activity a day can help reduce your risk of heart disease. A brisk walk, jog or bike ride is a great way to stay active. If you can’t commit to a full 30 minutes at once, breaking it up into 3-10 minutes sessions can help you reach this goal.
- Reduce stress: This is often easier said than done. We live in a busy world and are consumed by everything that needs to be done in a day. However, reducing stress and finding time to rejuvenate is highly effective in not only reducing heart disease risk but also helps to prevent many other chronic diseases before they start. There are several ways to help reduce stress. Yoga classes, spending time in nature, taking breaks at work, asking for help at home and a meditation practice are just a few examples. The key is to make sure you schedule time in your day to practice stress reduction.
- Know your numbers: During your yearly physical ask your provider to check your cholesterol. If you have a family history of heart disease inquire about the Lipoprotein (a) test and ask if there are any additional test that they would recommend you to have. Make sure to mention any family history of heart disease.
- Get your kids checked: Heart disease is hereditary and can start to show up in kids as early as age 9. The American Academy of Pediatrics has new guidelines that call for checking cholesterol levels in kids ages 9 and up. If you are a parent, ask about lab testing for cholesterol at your child’s next exam.
As women, we owe it to ourselves to take action early in life to help prevent a future heart attack. Don’t be afraid to be an advocate for your own health care. Make sure you get a yearly physical and don’t forget to take care of your heart. It’s the only one you have!
The information in this post is in no way intended to be medical advice. Always consult with your provider before making any lifestyle changes that could affect your health.