Heart Disease – Not Just A Man Thing
01/26/2004

Your heart tells you many things – when you’re in love, hurt or afraid – but it may not let you know you have heart disease.

Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill over 500,000 women each year – about one death a minute. That’s more lives than are claimed by the next seven causes of death combined, and nearly twice as many as claimed by all forms of cancer, including breast cancer. Yet misconceptions still exist that cardiovascular disease is not a real problem for women.

Heart disease is still viewed by many as a man’s disease, but it usually kills more women than men each year. It’s essential for all women to educate themselves about this disease and to take steps to live a more heart healthy lifestyle.

Steps can be taken to reduce your risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends the following tips:

1. Know your risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
  • Obesity
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure

2. Reduce your risk

  • Maintain a desirable weight: keep body mass index (BMI) below 25; waistline under 35 inches.
  • Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Don’t smoke – if you do, stop.
  • Eat a balanced diet (fruits, vegetables, cereal and grain products, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry and lean meat).
  • Maintain a total cholesterol level under 200 and an HDL level of 50 or higher.
  • Control your blood pressure. Try to keep it below 120/80.
  • Schedule regular visits with your doctor.
3. Know the warning signs of heart attack. Call 9-1-1 immediately if any occur.
  • Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
  • Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body: one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath: often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can occur before the discomfort.
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.