It’s Heart Health Month! We think and talk a lot about how symptoms of heart attacks differ in women, and that is a crucially important topic. As cholesterol medications become more widely used, atherosclerosis is predicted to decrease leading to a decrease in heart attacks. Furthermore, rapid emergency treatment of heart attacks means fewer heart attacks are fatal or debilitating.
On the other hand, we do not devote as much time to discussions of heart failure. “Almost 6 million Americans are living with heart failure, a condition in which the heart is not able to pump enough blood to support the other organs of the body. Heart failure appears to strike men to a greater extent than women, but it is still a serious consideration in women”, comments Dr. Carole Banka, Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Medicine at UCSD School of Medicine
Did you know that:
- More American women die of heart disease than of all forms of cancer combined?
- Most women do not know that heart disease is the #1 killer of women?
- Many of the risk factors for heart disease in women (high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, inactivity and smoking, for example) can be reduced or eliminated?
Even though there are effective medications and lifestyle changes that may slow the progression of heart failure, early detection is important. Heart failure signs and symptoms are similar in men and women, so make sure to discuss any of these with your physician:
- Shortness of breath during exercise or when you lie down
- Reduced ability to exercise
- Fatigue and weakness
- Signs of fluid retention including swelling in your legs, ankles and feet; swelling of your abdomen and sudden weight gain from fluid retention
- Increased need to urinate during the night
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats
- Nagging cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged phlegm
- Nausea and lack of appetite and nausea
- Difficulty concentrating, decreased alertness or confusion
- Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus
- Chest pain if your heart failure is caused by a heart attack
The tips for lowering your risk for heart failure will sound somewhat like a broken record– you have heard them all before; but once again:
- Eat well
- Lose weight
- Monitor blood pressure and treat it if necessary
- QUIT SMOKING!
The tunes of the women and heart health record seem to be making a difference, however! According to “Go Red for Women”:
- Nearly 90% of women have made at least one healthy behavior change.
- More than one-third of women have lost weight.
- More than 50% of women have increased their exercise.
- 6 out of 10 women have changed their diets.
- More than 40% of women have checked their cholesterol levels.
- One third of women have talked with their doctors about developing heart health plans.
So, for heart health month, keep dancing to the record of heart health and women! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you!
About the Doris A. Howell Foundation:
The Doris A. Howell Foundation for Women’s Health Research is committed to keeping the women we love healthy, advancing women’s health through research and educating women to be catalysts for improving family health in the community.
The organization does so by funding scholarships to students researching issues affecting women’s health; providing a forum for medical experts, scientists, doctors, and researchers to convey timely information on topics relevant to women’s health and the health of their families through its Lecture and Evening Series, and by funding research initiatives that improve the health of under-served women and increase awareness and advocacy in the community.
Summary prepared by Carolyn Northrup with information from the American Heart Association’s goredforwomen.org, and the CDC’s Heart Disease Statistics, in Collaboration with Carole Banka, Ph.D, Associate Project Scientist in the Department of Medicine at the UCSD School of Medicine.