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The Heart Truth Every Woman Needs to Know about Heart Disease

The Heart Truth Every Woman Needs to Know about Heart DiseaseHeart disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States.  It also kills more people than all forms of cancer combined.  The Red Dress is the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness.  It is a red alert that heart disease is the number one killer of women, and an urgent reminder to every woman to care for her heart.  The Red Dress is the centerpiece of “The Heart Truth,” the American Heart Association’s (AHA) national awareness campaign that warns women about heart disease.  The primary message is that heart disease does not care what you wear; it is the number one killer of women in the United States.  Wearing red helps to reinforce the fact that heart disease is not only a problem for men.

On January 26, Licking Memorial Health Systems (LMHS) hosted the annual The Heart Truth:  A Red Dress Event for more than 300 guests at the Bryn Du Field House in Granville to encourage women to make heart-healthy lifestyle changes.  This year’s theme was Walking for Your Heart and featured Pattye Whisman, M.D. of Licking Memorial Family Practice – McMillen.  Each guest was treated to healthy hors d’oeuvres, blood pressure screenings, and shoulder/back massages.  Each guest also received a Red Dress lapel pin to wear on the Go Red for Women Day, celebrated this year on Friday, February 3.

What is Heart Disease?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, heart disease (coronary heart disease) is a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to a heart attack.  A heart attack occurs when a blood vessel is blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart.  Heart disease is a lifelong condition.  The condition of your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you make changes to your daily habits.

Your lifestyle choices (daily habits) affect many of the risk factors (habits that increase the chances of developing heart disease).  Some risk factors, such as age (55 and over for women) and family history, cannot be controlled.  However, there are many risk factors that can be controlled.

By learning the risk factors and seeing your physician for a thorough checkup, you are taking a step toward a healthier heart.  According to research from the American Heart Association, women can lower their risk of heart disease by 82 percent by leading a healthy lifestyle.  Following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which has a Food Guide Pyramid, helps you make healthy food choices.  While incorporating physical activity, such as walking, lifting hand weights or carrying groceries, and taking off extra pounds, can decrease your risk of heart disease.  You may need to seek the help of your physician, a registered dietitian or a qualified nutritionist for help.  Your physician also may help you control your high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes through a combination of diet, exercise and medication.  It is important to follow your plan in order to achieve maximum results.  Controlling these risk factors will help you keep your heart healthy.

Heart Attack Warning Signs and Symptoms
Heart attacks are life-and-death emergencies, and every second counts in receiving treatment.  If you or someone else has any of the following signs and symptoms of a heart attack, call 911 immediately.

• Most heart attacks start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort.
• Most heart attacks involve 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.
• Discomfort in other areas of the upper body also can indicate a heart attack.  Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.  These symptoms are more common in women.
• Shortness of breath may occur with or without chest discomfort.
• A cold sweat may develop.
• Fatigue is a common symptom of heart attack for women.
• Other symptoms may include nausea or light-headedness.

While it is commonly known that chest pain is the most frequent sign of a heart attack, it is less widely known that many heart attack victims experience no chest pain at all.  Approximately 40 percent of women (and approximately 30 percent of men) who have heart attacks report they had no chest pain.  Not all of these signs occur in every heart attack.  If chest discomfort is present (especially with one or more of the other signs) wait no more than five minutes before calling 911 for help.  Emergency medical services (EMS) staff can begin treatment when they arrive – often sooner than if someone gets to the hospital by car.  The staff also is trained to revive someone whose heart has stopped.  You also will get treated faster in the hospital if you come by ambulance.  If you cannot access the EMS, have someone drive you to the hospital right away.  If you are having symptoms, do not drive yourself unless you have absolutely no other option.

Risk Factors of Heart Disease

• Smoking – Cigarette smoking increases the risk of heart attack and stroke as well as lung cancer. Just one year after you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease will drop by more than half.

• High Blood Pressure – High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, congestive heart failure and kidney disease.  Blood pressure is considered high when it is 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or above.

• High Blood Cholesterol – Too much low-
density lipoproteins (LDL), “bad” cholesterol in your blood can lead to blockages in the arteries – and possible heart attack.  An LDL level of 160 or above increases your risk of heart disease.  The higher your LDL number, the higher your risk of heart disease.  High-
density lipoproteins (HDL), “good” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your blood, an HDL level of less than 40 increases your risk of heart disease.

• Overweight/Obesity – If you are overweight or obese, you are more likely to develop heart disease, even if you have no other risk factors.

• Physical Inactivity – Not participating in regular physical activity increases your risk of heart disease as well as other heart disease risk factors including:  high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

• Diabetes – Diabetes is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other diseases.  Adults most commonly develop Type 2 diabetes.