Yesterday, my 50-year-old friend was taken to the hospital because she thought she had food poisoning. She died last night of a heart attack.
Last Thursday, member and VP Membership, Sharon Patish, gave a speech about her own experience with heart disease. So I thought I would share some of that information* in the hopes that more people, especially women, will become educated and empowered to help identify the signs and prevent any more senseless tragedies.
Heart Disease Kills More Women Than all Cancers Combined
It is the leading cause of death in women – 1 in 4 will die from heart disease.
Heart Attack Warning Signs
Be aware that warning signs for women may differ than those for men. Women tend to experience a greater number of symptoms than men, including shortness of breath, swelling around the ankles, and difficulty exercising. Only half of women who have heart attacks experience chest pain – the #1 sign for men.
- Chest discomfort, pain, squeezing, burning or mile to severe pressure in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes or comes and goes
- Upper body discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, nausea and vomiting, cold sweats
- Feelings of anxiety, fatigue or weakness – unexplained or on exertion
Time is of the Essence! What to Do if You Experience Any Signs
- Call 911 within 5 minutes of the start of symptoms
- Tell the operator you think you are having a heart attack
- Even if your symptoms stop completely in less than 5 minutes, call your doctor
- Do NOT drive yourself or let family/friends drive you to the hospital. Emergency personnel can begin treating you in the ambulance
- Chew and swallow one regular full-strength aspirin with water as soon as possible to prevent blood clotting
- At the hospital, make it clear that you are having a heart attack. Ask for a complete cardiac evaluation, including an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a cardiac enzyme blood test.
- If you are not receiving prompt evaluation, tell them again that you are experiencing heart attack symptoms.
Identify & Reduce Your Risk
You are not powerless. Although there are some risk factors that you cannot control, such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, and family history, there are many other things you can do to reduce your chances of developing heart disease.
- High blood pressure
- Elevated bad cholesterol (LDL)
- Poor diet
- Physical inactivity
- Being overweight or obese
What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk:
- Control your blood pressure
- Keep your cholesterol and triglyceride levels under control
- Stay at a healthy weight
- Eat a healthy diet
- Get regular exercise
- Limit alcohol
- Don’t smoke
- Manage stress
- Some ways to help manage your stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating
- Manage diabetes
- Get enough sleep
- At least 7-9 hours
- Lack of sleep raises your risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes
If you don’t currently suffer from heart disease, following the tips above will help keep your heart healthy. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, you are not alone. There are many organizations that help provide social and emotional support, which can help lower stress levels, anxiety and depression, and allow you to become more engaged in your health care.
*The information provided above was taken from literature distributed by Women Heart, the National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease, and should be used for educational purposes only. Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
About Women Heart
The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) patient advocacy organization with thousands of members nationwide, including women heart patients and their families, health care providers, advocates and consumers committed to helping women live longer, healthier lives. WomenHeart supports, educates and advocates on behalf of the 43 million American women living with, or at risk of heart disease.