Be ready to show your RED as we celebrate healthy and loving hearts for American Heart Month!
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States for both women and men, which makes it imperative that we become aware and start taking action to avert this preventable disease. February 1st is National Wear Red Day® for women’s heart health, so grab your red and wear it on the first day of February — and throughout the month — to help spread the word.
Heart Fun Facts
The heart is one of the most amazing and important organs in our body. Every day the heart beats about 115,000 times, pumps up to 2,000 gallons of blood, and has its own electrical system. This marvelous system works like a spark plug, firing a constant impulse that spreads throughout the heart, causing it to contract and carry oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body and other important organs (like your brain, which you are using right now to read this, thanks to your heart). And to top it off, the heart can beat even after it is removed from the body, and later be transplanted into another person, giving them a chance at life! How amazing is that?
Why it Matters
Now that we know some facts about how cool our hearts are, let’s take a look at why heart disease is such a concern.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States. In fact, more women die of heart disease than the number of women who die from ALL forms of cancer combined.
- About 1 in 3 women have some form of cardiovascular disease.
- A woman suffers a heart attack every 90 seconds in the United States.
- Although heart disease is known as a “man’s disease,” about the same number of women and men will die from heart disease in the U.S. annually.
- Only 6% of people who have a heart attack outside of a hospital will survive.
- 64% of women and 70-89% of men who die suddenly of coronary heart disease will have had NO prior symptoms.
Are You at Risk?
While anyone can develop heart disease, certain factors can increase one’s risk. About half of Americans have one of these (most often preventable) risk factors, including:
- Physical inactivity
- Mental stress, anxiety, or depression
- Obesity or being overweight
- High cholesterol
- Smoking or use of tobacco products
- Excessive alcohol intake
- High blood pressure
- Pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Unfortunately, some women do not have any symptoms of heart disease until they start experiencing a heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Multiple life-threatening conditions can result from heart disease, so it’s important to recognize the signs and get help right away, as it’s more likely you will save a life and prevent permanent damage to the heart tissue.
A Special Note on Heart Attack: A Woman’s Experience May Be Different
Men and women will typically experience unusual heavy pressure on the chest (think of heavy bricks laying on your chest), but women are more likely to experience other, non-classic heart attack symptoms such as sudden unexplained fatigue, sweating, or unexplained nausea and/or vomiting. More women die from heart attacks because they are not informed of these types of non-classic symptoms. Help to get the word out! Share this information with women you care about.
More women die from heart attacks because they are not informed of these types of non-classic symptoms.
Prevention is key, especially with heart disease. And no matter your age, there is no better time than now to implement these positive lifestyle changes into your routine. While the list below may seem overwhelming, just remember that even one small change can make a difference in your heart health. Healthy lifestyle modifications include:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet, which means reducing sodium intake; eating more fruits and vegetables; choosing more whole grains (including brown rice) rather than processed products made with white flour; limiting unhealthy fats, especially trans fats; eating the majority of your proteins from low-fat sources (think eggs, low-fat yogurt, fish, chicken, etc.); and limiting sweets to the occasional treat.
- Being mindful of recommended portion size.
- Exercising regularly: Shoot for 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t meet that goal. 10 minutes here and there add up!
- If you smoke, then stop. And if you don’t smoke. . . well, don’t even think about it!
- Aiming to get 8 hours of quality sleep every night.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Managing your stress and knowing it is ok to seek help if you feel like you need it. No judgment here!
- Talking to your healthcare provider annually about routine screening for heart disease.
. . .there is no better time than now to implement these positive lifestyle changes into your routine.
Let’s Not Forget the Men in Our Lives!
As much as we are talking about women and heart disease, it’s important to also remember the beautiful men in our lives. Their hearts matter too, so don’t forget to spread the word on heart health to them as well!
So when someone asks you, “Why all the RED?” You can tell them this… “I’m spreading the love that we need to show to our hearts, not just during heart month, but every day!”
Lori Fauquier WHNP-BC and Justine Della Fave WHNP-BC, CNM, Pill Club Nurse Practitioners