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Heart Disease – Where do you stand?

February 1, 2017 12:30 pm Published by

Don’t become a statistic.  Know your numbers.  As we enter the month of February, it is time to put your best red dress on to help raise awareness and celebrate all the efforts to stomp out heart disease in women.  Please pay attention as what I am about to share with you can and will save lives, a life that could be your own.  Heart disease is the #1 killer for women, next to cancer however in recent studies they are now racing in a dead heat.  Do you know where you stand in this race?  It is a race you can hopefully sit out, so please read on. 

Heart disease represents just one of the 3 forms of cardiovascular disease that can adversely affect women.  In fact, the same process that causes a heart attack can also lead to stroke in the brain or body with serious lifelong disability and death.  We know women are different than men when it comes to cardiovascular disease.  It is a fact that women are not as easy to diagnose as men.  It is imperative to know your body well and to be your own advocate to evade the misdiagnoses that can occur due to our gender differences.  Are you at risk or ever experienced a heart attack?  Do you know for sure?  The fact is that about 35% of all heart attacks that occur in women go unnoticed or unreported.  It is not that we are oblivious or too busy; it is that we do not have the same symptoms as men.  We do not get that vice grip or elephant on your chest pain like our male counterparts.   We may instead experience extreme nausea with mild chest discomfort often mistaken as heartburn or a terrible stomach bug.  A woman will more often have pain in her neck, jaw or arms when a heart attack is happening.  A heart attack may even be as subtle as new onset of extreme fatigue, where family, work or stress may mistakenly be rationalized as to why one feels so badly.  Bottom line, unless you keep up with your well women’s health and numbers you may not ever know until it is too late.    

As women, our ovaries protect our cardiovascular health when it comes to that golden hormone produced called estrogen.  Up until about the age of 50 to 55, we have our angel wings, and estrogen helps promote the good cholesterol, called HDL that fights off the bad.  Bad cholesterol, being LDL, is what can block the vital vessels in our brain, heart or body resulting in a stroke or heart attack.  After age 50 to 55, when we officially enter menopause, the change of life, we are then a sitting duck!  Careful ladies, this is not just about menopause, as we know issues in our youth can lead to what happens later.  We know women who experience complications in pregnancy like high blood pressure or diabetes are certainly at risk for heart disease when they are older.  Further, medical conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, polycystic ovarian disease, autoimmune disorders and even improper use of birth control or hormone replacement therapy can be a risk factor for a heart attack or stroke.  It is time that we take a stand, as we know the path it takes to fight and overcome this battle.   

Let’s talk numbers.  The American Heart Association has identified 7 areas that you should know and keep track to decrease your risk of heart disease or stroke. 

Absolutely no smoking!  I tell my patients to choose another bad habit!  I would rather you have that dark chocolate or glass of wine than a cigarette.  We know smoking accelerates the fatal process leading to heart attack or stroke. 

Get your physical activity.  Exercise can be wherever you choose as long as you get that heart pumping! I advise my Patients you can do whatever you want as long as you can sing a song and break a sweat – it is that great aerobic zone that trains your heart. 

Follow a heart healthy diet.  You should eat as much fresh fruit, vegetables and lean protein you can.  If it is in a box or doesn’t expire, then you don’t want it!  Processed foods are terrible for our health when it comes to heart disease and cancer prevention.    

Maintain a normal body weight.  Talk to your health care Provider to know where you stand. 

Control of cholesterol.  Have your levels checked now. 

Monitor your blood pressure.  High blood pressure damages your heart and body as it places undue stress on the blood flow and creates havoc on its way. 

Control your blood sugar.  High blood sugar and diabetes is known to damage every cell in our body.  Ask to be screened to know where you stand. 

Sounds easy enough?  In our present American culture, it has not proven to be so easy.  The fact is over 86-million Americans are affected by heart disease in some way and as a result, one person dies every 40-seconds in the United States.  We know what we need to do so save ourselves, but we somehow continue to fall prey to this disease. 

Get to your health care provider now and start the conversation.  Get your well women’s exam.  Ask to know your numbers and take this quiz as the life you save could be your own.  Go to https://www.goredforwomen.org/ for more information.  If you know your numbers, please plug them into this calculator and bring to your health care provider today.    http://www.cvriskcalculator.com/

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This post was written by Marie Rowe

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Dr. Marie Rowe, who is the author of the Greenville Women's Clinic Blog

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