Women have a unique position when it comes to their heart health. Men typically know that heart disease is a real risk to their lives, particularly over the age of 45. But did you know that only 44% of women know that heart disease is the #1 leading reason for death? One in three women die of heart disease — and this struggle is not just for older women. It is the #1 cause of death for young mothers and can impact some without glaring signs of the disease.
Knowing how to strengthen your heart is incredibly important! We want you to learn ways to prevent heart disease so that you can continue making tremendous strides in your communities and be there for your family and friends.
How to Strengthen Your Heart
While we all know the risks of cancer and fear it as a somewhat uncontrollable disease, heart disease, which can be lessened by lifestyle changes, kills more women than cancer. When you want to grow your heart health routines, start by knowing what leads to heart disease so you can avoid risk factors.
While it may seem like you have time to think about this later, know that 90% of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease — so take this information seriously and know the signs. We must continue to raise awareness about this mostly silent killer.
Here is a look at the causes, signs, and prevention of heart disease in women to help you know how to strengthen your heart for the days and years ahead!
Causes of Heart Disease
Heart disease is centered on the lessening of blood flow throughout your body and includes a myriad of malfunctions in the cardiovascular system. Some of the physical issues in heart disease include —
- Your blood vessels or the heart itself deal with plaque buildup, leading to blood clots.
- Congestive heart failure represents the heart not pumping as it should, bringing less oxygen throughout your body.
- Arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart.
- Heart valve issues include problems with the valves leaking or not opening and closing well, which leads to dysregulated blood flow.
Some general causes of heart disease in women include —
- Unhealthy food habits
- High blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol
- Lack of physical activity
- Weight issues, particularly around the midsection
Unfortunately, even “healthy” people can be impacted by this disease due to family risk factors, so it’s essential to know your history. Also, some health issues during pregnancy like high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes can play a role in forming heart disease later in life.
Signs of Heart Disease
In women, the signs of heart disease include a long list of symptoms, which can often be confusing for people and delay their obtaining the proper medical attention. Here are the signs of heart disease that you need to know:
- Nausea and potentially vomiting
- Pain in the upper back, jaw, or neck
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain (but not all women have this symptom)
- Pressure or pain in the chest or upper abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme tiredness or fatigue
If you find yourself wondering if you are having a heart attack, do not delay in seeking medical attention. The best thing to do is call 911 or make your way to the nearest hospital.
Prevention of Heart Disease
While you cannot prevent all risk factors, here are some of the best ways to encourage and support personal heart health —
Know your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Knowledge is power, particularly with your heart. When you recognize easily identifiable risk factors and take care of them with medicine, diet, and exercise, you can move confidently in the future!
Exercise Regularly. When you think of exercise for heart health, we’re talking aerobics. Brisk walking or running, swimming, playing tennis, or doing anything that gets the heart pumping more for 30 minutes can contribute to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Less Stress. Having less stress can be difficult, but you can do a few things to minimize its effects. Be sure to get enough sleep, so you’re able to tackle everything you have during the day. Focus on coping with your stress through eating well, exercising, and talking with friends or a counselor about your anxiety.
Eat Right. You may find that eating right is something you enjoy, but there are specific foods that are heart-healthy. Be sure to incorporate salmon and avocado, which both have healthy fats. Also, eating grapefruit has been shown to help lower the risk factors for heart disease (as long as you're not on medicine). Be sure to check with your doctor before starting new daily food routines if you are currently on medicine.
Lose Weight. While diet and exercise contribute to a healthy weight, sometimes it’s not enough. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you are having difficulty losing weight. You may need to address hormones or different factors that may be preventing you from keeping the weight off for good.
Quit Smoking. Kicking this habit for good will help you maintain a healthy heart.
One of the best ways to support heart health in women is by visiting the American Heart Association. Every February, they have American Heart Month to raise awareness for cardiovascular wellness among women and provide the latest stats and action items that you can participate in for heart wellness!
Here's to your heart wellness and healthy living so you can continue sharing your joy and your light with those around you!