February is Heart Health Month, and today, February 22 is Blog Your Heart Out Day. Bloggers are joining together today by speaking up about the #1 killer of women–Heart disease.
I know this all too well because I lost my mother to the disease at the much too early age of 65 (eight years after my father also died of a heart attack). Although her father had also died of heart disease, my mother had no idea that she also suffered from the disease. Women weren’t routinely checked (as many men were), and women’s symptoms are frequently different from men’s.
Women’s Heart Attack Symptoms
While women may feel that squeezing pressure that is common for men, they also frequently describe symptoms similar to flu or acid reflux. (Sadly, when we found my mother the morning after she died, we found a medical book open to a page about heartburn.) Sometimes women describe pressure in their upper back that feels like a rope being tied around them. Lightheadedness, dizziness, or even fainting are other possible symptoms. Many women are shocked that they could be having a heart attack, and they will brush off symptoms and not call 911.
If you have any of the following signs for more than five minutes, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital immediately:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or lightheadedness.
- As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
Making Healthy Changes
If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to make changes in your lifestyle to help prevent heart disease. Make an appointment with your health care provider to discuss your risk factors. Ask about getting a lipo-protein blood screening.
Other changes that you can make:
- If you smoke, quit.
- Start an exercise program. Walking just 30 minutes a day can lower your risk.
- Modify your diet if necessary. Check out these healthy eating tips from the American Heart Association.
- Join the Go Red for Women Movement. Make it your mission to learn about the risks for heart disease and spread the word about prevention.
Making small changes can dramatically reduce your risk. Start today! For more information about heart disease and prevention, please visit the following sites: