When you think of heart disease you may think of men, but it’s actually the leading killer of women in the United States.
In 2013, nearly 300,000 women died from heart disease, representing one-quarter of all deaths involving women. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that about the same number of women die of heart disease as men each year in the United States.
A recent study showed that only about half the women knew that this illness was their gender’s No. 1 killer. So what do women need to know to reduce their chances of a heart attack?
▪ Make adjustments to diet and lifestyle. The No. 1 change should be to reduce salt. There is salt and sodium in most things we eat, but Americans consume too much on an average. Salt retains fluids, which increase blood pressure. High blood pressure means that your heart is working harder to pump.
▪ Quit smoking, which will benefit all parts of your body as well as your heart.
▪ Laugh out loud. Research shows that this is good for your heart and helps guard against a heart attack. The connection is that mental stress is related to inflammation that can lead to fatty buildups in coronary arteries.
▪ Walk regularly. Getting enough exercise is essential in many ways, and includes benefits to your mental health. To lower your risk of heart disease, walk 2.5 hours per week.
▪ Eat chocolate, especially dark chocolate, which includes antioxidants and flavonoids that are heart-friendly.
Heart disease affects women of all races. Know the signs and symptoms. The most common female heart attack symptoms are similar to male symptoms:
▪ Discomfort or pain in chest
▪ Squeezing sensation anywhere in the chest
▪ Pain in your neck
▪ Pain in your back
▪ Pain in your arms
▪ Pain in your jaw
Not everyone who suffers a heart attack may experience the same symptoms. If you have discomfort in your chest, especially if there are other signs present, dial 911 immediately.
Dr. Steve Filardo is an interventional cardiologist with Baptist Health Medical Group Cardiology and practices at Baptist Health Corbin.