Throughout the month of February the female members of the Indiana General Assembly have been raising awareness about heart disease in women. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for adult women and kills approximately one woman every minute. Unfortunately though, most women do not know that this is their greatest long-term health concern.
The American Heart Association has started a movement called Go Red for Women that seeks to educate women about heart disease and their risk. Most women do not think about heart disease dismissing it as “an older man’s disease.”
Ninety percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease, but only one in five think that they are personally at risk. The good news is that eighty percent of cardiac events in women are preventable if simple lifestyle changes are made such as eating a healthier diet, exercising, and living smoke free.
First, you must be able to identify the signs of a typical heart attack. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most of them start slowly with mild pain or discomfort. It is key that you do not wait before taking action though if you have chest discomfort, other discomfort in the upper body, shortness of breath, break out in a cold sweat, experience nausea or lightheadedness. It is important to note that the signs of a heart attack can vary for women, and just not feeling right can be a sign of a heart attack.
One of the best ways to combat this disease is to make heart healthy decisions. We hear it all the time, but it’s true, we need to maintain a healthy weight. Too much body fat increases the risk for heart disease and other health problems.
We also need to get active. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes exercise each week. What we eat makes a difference too. A heart-healthy diet includes eating more fruits and vegetables, fish, whole grains and limiting our sodium intake and sugar sweetened beverages. We also need to watch our cholesterol level; it should be under 200 mg/dL and our blood pressure should be consistently less than 120 as a top number and 80 as a bottom number.
It is essential that we be proactive in making heart healthy decisions and stay informed so that we can recognize the signs of a heart attack. If you would like to learn more about American Heart Month you can visit: www.goredforwomen.org. I also encourage you to visit my website at www.in.gov/h76 to hear a special message from female legislators on this issue.