Heart disease is not just a man’s disease, yet it is America’s number one killer of women, claiming 480,000 women a year (one per minute). Ignorance is as real a threat as heart disease itself. In a 2003 study completed by the American Heart Association, of 1,000 women surveyed, a mere 13 percent viewed cardiovascular disease (CVD) and stroke as a threat to their health.But consider these stark statistics.
- 64 percent of women who died suddenly of coronary heart disease had no previous symptoms.
- 1 in 2.6 female deaths are from CVD, compared with 1 in 30 from breast cancer.
- Stroke is the No. 3 cause of death for American women, and is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability.
The most common risk factor for cardiovascular disease in women is a sedentary lifestyle. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 39% of white women and 57% of women of color do not get enough physical exercise. Rates of physical inactivity are highest among poor women. As with men, diet, exercise, and a tobacco-free lifestyle are the keys to preventing heart disease in women. Simply by walking 30 minutes a day, three times a week a woman’s risk of a heart attack is reduced by 50 percent. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are also may experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain.
Schedule a yearly checkup to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked.
Get physical by marching or jogging in place for at least 15 minutes a day. Increase your activity by 5 minutes each week until you reach 30 minutes a day.
Drink more water and eat healthy. Put vegetables and fruits in front in the refrigerator and healthy snacks in the front of the pantry, so that healthy choices become a habit.
Keep an eye on your cholesterol. Avoid foods high in saturated and trans fat. Eat lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.
Cut or eliminate the salt. Only use a little salt in cooking and put the salt shaker away during dinner. Watch for salt disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or sodium citrate.
Quit smoking. No matter whether you go cold turkey, attend a smoking cessation group, or use a medication to help you quit, just kick the habit.
Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Eat smaller portions. Snack on fruits and vegetables. Sustain your momentum by keeping track of your achievements.
Most of all, don’t turn a blind eye to the facts. Your heart’s health depends on it.