By Joanne Lauten, RN, BSN, SCRN
The more a woman knows about heart disease, the better chance she has of beating it.
Heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. Fortunately, we can change that because 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action.
There are a several misconceptions about heart disease in women, and they could be putting you at risk. Classic chest pain is common with women as it is with men, but not all women feel it. Women may have a sensation in their neck or jaw, feel palpitations, weakness, fatigue, a sense of dread – or classic symptoms that can be confused with gastrointestinal disease including vomiting, nausea and indigestion.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease remains “understudied, underdiagnosed and undertreated”. Just because you feel fine doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk for heart disease. There are many factors that can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease, and they are much more than just the obvious factors like age or weight.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can create blood clots and raise your blood pressure, along with heart disease it is the main cause of lung cancer.
- Regular screening for heart disease can catch risks early, your doctor should check your blood pressure, weight and cholesterol levels yearly.
- Do you get enough sleep? Sleep is not just down time; it gives your heart a chance to rest and avoid excess production of adrenaline, which can cause rapid heart rate.
- Staying active is paramount. Any kind of exercise will benefit your heart. A simple walk from the end of the parking lot to the store is ideal to start with.
- Research suggests a drink a day my help, and 4 oz. of wine is just the right amount.
Knowledge is power, and when you have all of the facts you can become an activist, advocate and educator to spread the word and inspire others to make heart health a top priority.
Joanne Lauten, RN, BSN, SCRN is Director of Nursing Quality and the Stroke Coordinator at Mather Hospital.