February Is American Heart Month

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We all know February is the month for love, did you know it is also American Heart Month? Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing one in five women in 2017. The CDC has also determined that certain types of heart disease are also signficant risk factors for severity of illness related to COVID-19. Heart disease, a broad term, includes several types of heart ailments with the most common being coronary heart disease. Heart disease is often silent, with symptoms only being noticed after an event such as a heart attack. So what do we look for? What can we do? Plenty.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Women

Women can experience heart disease in many ways. Heart disease may present itself as neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort, shortness of breath, nausea and/or vomiting, and sweating. Women may find themselves often lightheaded or dizzy, or very tired. Sure, all of these symptoms can be indicative of mild or even transient conditions. But, they can also be precursors to heart attack, heart failure, or other serious heart issues. Knowing your body—what’s normal and what’s not—is a first step in being able to identify subtle changes as we age and change. Consult your doctor if you are concerned or simply want a baseline.

Risk Factors for Heart Disease

The top three risk factors for heart disease are: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. Other factors that can contribute include diabetes, obesity or being overweight. Eating an unhealthy diet, being physically inactive and drinking too much alcohol can also do damage.

How To Reduce Your Risk

The silver lining of heart disease is that it’s largely preventable. Start with consulting your health care provider about your risk factors and evaluating your personal health practices. Know your blood pressure, know your cholesterol numbers, exercise, limit alcohol intake, make healthy food choices, control your weight, and, if you smoke—quit. It’s so easy for women to put ourselves on the back burner when we are busy taking care of our families. But the truth is, we can’t take care of our families if we aren’t here. And we can’t take care of them as well as we would want to if we aren’t well.

Knowing your risk and what to look for will impact your heart health. Making your health a priority will impact your entire life. Show yourself a little February love and put yourself on your priority list. Your heart will thank you for it.

For some ways to stay healthy this winter, check out Fitness in Vowels. 

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