Listen to Your Heart
Symptoms of heart problems in women can be vague, but making changes to exercise and eating habits can have a big impact
Think your life is busy? Are you constantly “on the go” with work, kids and other activities? When was the last time you checked-in with your heart? After all, it’s working 24 hours a day, seven days a week without any breaks – totaling about 38 million beats a year!
Symptoms of a heart problem can be a bit vague, especially for women. What would you do if you felt short of breath, weak, shoulder pain or a sudden extreme feeling of fatigue? Would you call 911 or instead lie down on the couch thinking you’re under too much stress? In women, these are signs you could be having a heart attack.
Make sure you take cues from your body seriously.
“Patients, especially women, need to realize something isn’t right,” says Dean Cardiovascular Surgeon Dr. Vijay Kantamneni. “By telling your doctor, he or she can be more cautious and order tests if necessary. If a woman comes to the hospital with undiagnosed symptoms that could correlate to a heart attack, I go the extra step to make sure their heart is ok. That could mean an EKG, chest x-ray or even a stress test.”
High blood pressure, smoking, obesity and diabetes increase a woman’s risk of developing heart disease. Women who smoke, for instance, tend to have a heart attack 19 years earlier than non-smoking women. African American women also have a 72 percent higher risk for heart disease. These same women 55-64 years old have double the risk for a heart attack as their Caucasian counterparts.
Lifestyle changes can have a big impact.
It’s been proven that a woman’s heart responds better than a man’s to healthy lifestyle changes.
“Women have to be active and not just during the warm months,” says Dr.
The Keys to a Healthier Heart
- Stop smoking
- Adopt the Mediterranean diet
- Reduce your red meat consumption
- Use canola or olive oils when recipes call for oil
- Increase the number of fruits and vegetables you eat
- Get plenty of exercise year-round
Kantamneni, “In winter there is some evidence that heart attacks increase and the mortality rate for women who suffer heart attacks is higher. That’s why it’s so important that women exercise year round.”
In addition to exercise, be sure to eat properly. Also, don’t smoke and keep control of high blood pressure and diabetes.
In the end it comes down to committing to a healthy attitude and lifestyle. Women tend to think it’s the men in their lives they need to worry about most. While keeping tabs on the guys is important, don’t forget to take care of yourself, too! Listen carefully. Your heart might be trying to tell you something.