According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Although large awareness campaigns have been centered around women’s heart health over the last few decades, only about 56 percent of women understand that heart disease is the number one killer among women. Sadly, approximately one woman dies every minute from such diseases. That amounts to over 400,000 each year.
Heart disease, also known as the “silent killer,” often doesn’t make itself known easily. As plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries, the arteries narrow and blood flow becomes difficult. At worst, blood clots form and stop the blood flow. In many instances, its victims are unaware until serious issues occur such as a heart attack, an arrhythmia or even heart failure. Due to its intense nature, it is important to understand the risk factors and appropriate steps toward prevention.
Risk Factors for Women’s Heart Health
By understanding the risk factors that lead to heart disease, you can begin steering your health in the right direction. The leading risk factors are:
- High blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. There are virtually no symptoms of high blood pressure or LDL cholesterol, so it is important to monitor both regularly.
- Excessive alcohol. It’s no secret that excessive alcohol can lead to a myriad of problems. Alcohol consumption should be limited to one drink per day.
- Smoking. All efforts should be made to completely eliminate smoking. Just one cigarette a day can lead to a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease.
Understand the Warnings
Although heart disease can be silent, heart attacks and related side effects are typically preceded by warnings. The warning signs in women include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
- Back or jaw pain
- Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
Should you begin experiencing any of these symptoms, it is imperative that you address them immediately with your doctor. Your life could literally depend on it.
Steps for Prevention
Even if heart disease runs in your family, about 80 percent of heart-related problems are preventable. And luckily, there are plenty of steps you can take to reduce your chances of heart disease. Here are a few:
- Eat healthy. Commit to making healthy food choices and practicing portion control.
- Reduce stress. Making the effort to intentionally reduce stress levels will prove invaluable for your heart health.
- Go exercise. Consider beginning with just 15 minutes a day and increasing your regimen slowly.
- Get plenty of sleep. Research has shown that consistently getting under seven hours of sleep per night increases the chance for heart issues.
As awareness of women’s heart health spreads, it is expected that the number of victims claimed by this silent killer will steadily decrease. Thankfully, organizations like the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women continue to move forward with research that will contribute to saving lives. But for now, take the information that you know and put it into practice to ensure your heart’s health is a priority.