We’ve all seen the same scene in a movie: a man in his mid-50s or -60s clutches his chest and falls to the ground. People run around, screaming for a doctor and for someone to call 911. This is usually how heart attacks are depicted in pop culture, cementing our perception of what a typical heart attack looks like and whom it happens to (often, a middle aged male).
The truth is that heart attacks can happen to anyone at any age and regardless of gender. Current statistics from the CDC show that 1 in 4 female deaths are due to heart disease, making it deadlier than all forms of cancer combined. Within a year after a heart attack, 42% of women die as compared to 24% of men. Bluntly put, that is 1 woman every 4 minutes.
It’s no shocker that heart attacks for women are often dubbed the “Silent Killer.” So ladies, what can you do to reduce your risk?
1. Know your numbers. Get regular blood work and pay attention to what it says, especially your cholesterol level. Watch your blood pressure. Get annual checkups and ask your doctor how you can reduce your risk.
2. Eat healthy. Reduce your sodium intake and up the veggies. Americans are eating more than twice the FDA recommended 1500 mg of sodium a day. Sodium is a major contributor to high blood pressure and other conditions, such as kidney disease. Look for flavor in other foods. Enrich your diet with whole foods that are good for the heart such as whole grains, lean proteins, and a range of colorful vegetables, especially greens.
3. Move. Sedentary lifestyles are a major cause of heart disease, as well as other chronic illnesses.
4. If you are a smoker, quit. Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease.
5. Know your family history and talk to relatives about heart disease among relatives. There is a positive correlation between family history and heart illnesses. The more you know, the more proactive you can be regarding your health.
6. Educate yourself and others. Knowing the signs of a heart attack could mean the difference between life and death for you or someone you know.
Heart attack symptoms in women present like symptoms of the flu or even stress. Women report nausea, indigestion, fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath and jaw or neck pain. Only 1 in 5 women reported suffer from chest pains. Women under 55 are therefore less likely to seek medical attention, increasing the likelihood that a heart attack will be fatal.
7. Listen to your body and go to the doctor if you recognize warning signs from number 6. Ladies, we know when something is wrong. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms go away. Get yourself help as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more damage will occur if you are having a heart attack. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
8. Slow down, enjoy life and stress less. Love your body and treasure it like the temple it is.
Sarah Klena is a blogger, educator and runner living in Orlando, Florida. After surviving a massive widow maker heart attack at the age of 31, she has made heart disease awareness her mission. Through her blog Heart Attack at 31, work with the American Heart Association and speaking engagements, she tells her story and motivates others to take care of their hearts. Her story has been featured in Good Housekeeping magazine, The Dr Oz show and in numerous online publications.
Main Photo Credit: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock.com; Doctor Photo Credit: Image Point Fr/Shutterstock.com; Neck Pain Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock.com.