Today is Go Red For Women day.
Are you wearing red? More importantly, do you know what today means? Let me fill you in – the American Heart Association has designated today as a day to wear red to create awareness surrounding heart disease in women.
Though heart disease is often thought of as an ‘older man’s disease’, it is, in fact, heart disease is the LEADING killer in women, causing one out of three deaths each year.
Not only is Go Red For Women designed to raise awareness, it is also a day to take action – to understand your risk factors, to take steps toward living a heart healthy life.
A few days ago, I had the opportunity to speak to Dr. Travis Stork of television’s ‘The Doctors’. Dr. Stork deals with patients in the ER with heart disease on a daily basis. He graciously took a few minutes out of his busy day to answer some questions and give some insight into our heart disease epidemic.
First of all, know your risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- High triglycerides
- Untreated diabetes
- Lack of regular exercise
All of these risk factors are things you can control. Yes, it can be hard to give up smoking. Or you may think that you’re too young to have your cholesterol or triglycerides tested. But knowledge is power. Visiting your doctor for a physical may be life saving.
Other than quitting smoking, Dr. Stork said that one lifestyle change can make a huge difference – walking thirty minutes a day. It can add three years to your life. It requires no equipment and no skill set. And another ‘heart-healthy’ side effect? If you make a habit of walking with loved ones, you get to spend quality time together – and make your heart happy.
In addition to the walking, Dr. Stork suggested standing more and sitting less. For instance, if you usually make phone calls at work sitting at your desk, try standing. Be on your feet as much as possible, the less sedentary you are, the better.
Now that we’ve gone over lifestyle changes you can make to prevent heart disease, let’s get into what you need to know about heart attacks.
Typical Symptoms Include:
- Chest discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes or that goes away and returns
- Pain and discomfort in one or both arms or back
- Shortness of breath
- Breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea and/or lightheadedness
Overlooked Symptoms Include:
- Pain and discomfort in the stomach, neck or jaw
It should be noted that the warning signs can be harder to detect in women. Fifty percent of women don’t experience chest pain – the number one symptom is fatigue.
Dr. Stork stressed that we need to listen to our bodies. Really listen. Things like being tired for no obvious reason, generalized weakness, or simply that something just doesn’t feel “right.” If you’re experiencing odd symptoms, different than anything you’ve experienced before, it can’t hurt to get it checked out.
Other than addressing the risk factors, there are further actions you can take to avoid heart disease.
Reduce risk by:
- Purchasing foods and beverages without added sugars and that are low in sodium
- Drinking alcohol in moderation (one drink/day for women; two drinks/day for men)
- Watching portion sizes of ALL foods and eating a balanced diet
- Cutting back on food high in cholesterol (goal of no more than 300 mg/day)
- Avoiding all tobacco products
- Exercising on a regular basis
Finally, realize there are NO EXCUSES. Under the Affordable Care Act, all new individual and group health plans must provide recommended preventative care and services (including blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol and body mass index screenings as well as counseling on quitting smoking, losing weight and eating well) without a copayment, coinsurance or deductible.
So, go to your doctor. Get checked out.
And, one more piece of advice from Dr. Stork:
Eat well and be active.
Words to live by, ladies.
Make sure to wear red today and spread the word!
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