Despite great strides in medical advancements and life expectancy, heart disease remains the number one killer of women in the United States. Once thought of as a “man’s disease,” gender specific studies on health disease have only been around since the 1990s. Still, more women than men die of heart disease every year and—even with significant improvement in awareness—many women are still not aware of their risk factors.
Thanks to initiatives like the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign this month, more women are learning about taking care of their hearts as they age and identifying risk factors early on.
To do our part in raising awareness, we’re helping to spread the word with a few tips of how you can reduce your risks.
- Be Aware: The first step in limiting your risk factors is being aware that you might have them. Arm yourself with the knowledge that heart disease is the number one killer or women and make a plan with your doctor to keep your health on track.
- Understand the Symptoms: Women are more likely than men to have heart attack symptoms that don’t involve chest pain—though pain in the chest, back and shoulders is still a symptom. Understanding that the symptoms for women are often more subtle than symptoms for men can help you recognize a cardiac event if it happens to you. In addition to chest pains, other symptoms include nausea, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, fatigue and sweating.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Perhaps one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease is ensuring you maintain a healthy weight with a well-rounded diet. If you are concerned about your weight or diet habits, be sure to talk to your doctor about how to make positive changes.
- Quit Smoking: Or, better yet—don’t start. However, if you’ve already picked up the habit, there’s no better time than now to quit. Your body will thank you.
- Exercise: Giving your heart the healthy activity it craves is important to reducing your risk of heart disease. Find an activity you love and maintain a routine that fits into your lifestyle, but shoot for at least 30-60 minutes a day, three times a week.