Thursday February 8, 2018

Going Red for Heart Health

By Leanne Stidham RN, University of Dayton Health Center

February is Heart Health month- do you know your risk? Know the causes, signs, and how you can prevent heart disease- your heart depends on it!

Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flows the springs of life.  Proverb 4:23

The fact is: Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute!  Yet, only 1 in 5 American women believe that heart disease is her greatest health threat.

Stroke disproportionately affects African-Americans.  African-American women are less likely than Caucasian women to be aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death. Diabetes, smoking, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, physical inactivity, obesity and a family history of heart disease are all greatly prevalent among African-Americans and are major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. What’s more, African-American women have almost two times the risk of stroke than Caucasians, and more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities.

Among Hispanic women, heart disease and cancer cause roughly the same number of deaths each year. For American Indian or Alaska Native and Asian or Pacific Islander women, heart disease is second only to cancer.

What causes heart disease?

Heart disease affects the blood vessels and cardiovascular system. Numerous problems can result from this, many of which are related to a process called arteriosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

It doesn’t affect all women alike, and the warning signs for women aren’t always the same in men. As with men, the most common heart attack symptom in women is chest pain or discomfort. But it’s important to note that women are more likely to experience the other symptoms unrelated to chest pain

The truth is, women are less likely to call 9-1-1 when experiencing symptoms of a heart attack themselves. It simply doesn’t occur to them to do so. And why would it? The bulk of media attention on the disease is focused on men.

How can I prevent it?

Many things can put you at risk for these problems – some you can control, and others that you can’t. But the key takeaway is that with the right information, education and care, heart disease in women can be treated, prevented and even ended.

Studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Here are a few lifestyle changes you should make:

Check out UD students, faculty, and staff wearing red for WEAR RED day below!

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