This month, the American Heart Association asks us to tell other women about a serious threat to their health: heart disease. Many women are not aware that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. When I discuss this with my students, they are often surprised, believing that breast cancer is the top health threat they face. Certainly breast cancer is a serious concern, but heart disease kills more women than all cancers combined. The top cancer killer for women is actually lung cancer.
In fact, more women die from heart disease each year than men. Why? Lack of awareness is a factor. Also, women often experience heart attack symptoms that are different from the intense chest pain most people associate with a heart attack. Common symptoms include pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, abdomen or stomach. The pain may come and go. Other symptoms include dizziness, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, lightheadedness, sweating, nausea, or vomiting. Diabetics, who experience many of these symptoms on a regular basis, may not notice these problems have become more serious. Because women, their families, and even health professionals don’t always consider these symptoms indicative of a heart attack, many women die before they are properly diagnosed.
Other factors that adversely affect women include parental history. Women whose parents had heart disease or heart attacks have a higher risk for these conditions than their brothers.
Spreading awareness to women about their risk for heart disease is key to ensuring that women try to prevent heart disease and receive proper treatment should they become ill. Now that I have told you, I ask you to tell at least one woman about her risk for heart disease. You can find more information about the signs of heart attack and stroke at the American Heart Association page here. Learn more about risk factors and prevention at the Mayo Clinic page here.
Go ahead and have a serious conversation with a woman today; it could save her life. What better gift can you give a woman you care about for Valentine’s Day, or any day?
2013 Update: I am still climbing the stairs on the days I go into the office, twice a week. On average, I climb eight flights a day, usually six in the morning and two later in the day. I can make it to the fifth floor without taking a break, but only if I push myself. I usually stop at the fourth floor to catch my breath and then keep going.
I have also started walking in the afternoons with my children while they ride their bikes once or twice a week. If we go to a park, I walk laps around the play structure while they are busy climbing and sliding. I’m hoping to incorporate some general stretches and strengthening exercises into my daily routine. Currently, I do them only occasionally. What healthy goals have you set for yourself?