The leading killer of women in America is cardiovascular disease, yet if you think about any time that you’ve seen someone suffer from a heart attack on film, it’s likely an image of a man doubled over with chest pain. When we only see the images of men suffering from heart disease, it becomes easy for women to put their guard down, assuming that heart health isn’t something they need to worry about. As with many things, representation in media makes a difference. Because of this gap in understanding of how threatening heart disease truly is, only 1 in 5 women believe that heart disease is the greatest threat to her health.
Valentine’s Day is a holiday dedicated to celebrating hearts and love, so we couldn’t think of a more perfect time to lean into a conversation about what women need to know in order to show their heart more love.
Know the Signs
Typically, people associate feelings of chest pain with heart attacks, however, there are other lesser-known symptoms that may warn you that something is wrong. The American Heart Association has identified the following symptoms:
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath, with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Additionally, women may experience a heart attack differently than men. Specifically, women may be more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea and back/jaw pain.
If you experience these symptoms, act fast to call 911; it may be the difference of life and death.
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 common symptoms. Learn more at https://t.co/vOWggHQgqL pic.twitter.com/ltZ0WTAT0e
— GoRedforWomen (@GoRedForWomen) January 16, 2019
Building Healthy Hearts
Making lifestyle changes to support heart health may seem overwhelming, so we wanted to break down the recommendations from the American Heart Association into four bite-sized action steps:
- Connect with your doctor. Your doctor can check your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol and can develop treatment plans if there’s any cause for concern.
- Connect with your family. Have proactive conversations with your family to understand your unique family history and risks.
- Manage what goes into your body. Yes, the age-old recommendations to stop smoking and eat healthy prove incredibly important on the issue of maintaining a healthy heart. One great approach is to focus on adding more color into your diet.
- Manage how you move your body. An active lifestyle is incredibly important for heart health—150 minutes of weekly activity is recommended. Find exercises you love doing, rather than what you think you should be doing, because joyful movement will keep you coming back for more.
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Molly Hemphill, a hiker, runner and zealous rock climber, is in training for a chance to take on the rugged American Ninja Warrior obstacle course that few can conquer. But Molly has conquered plenty already. She has a congenital heart disease. Read more about Molly at news.heart.org.
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Sign Up to Learn CPR
As we consider the importance of healthy hearts on Valentine’s Day, it’s a good idea to think beyond just your own heart health. A great way to show love to the hearts around you is to educate yourself in CPR techniques. You never know when someone around you may face a health crisis, but with very simple CPR training, you can literally save their life.
While there’s value in finding a local CPR course to attend, can you extend the net even wider? Invite your church and/or employer to host CPR training courses so that broad swaths of people within your community can also learn these life-saving skills!
Surround Yourself with Love
Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love, so why not integrate heart-healthy behavior into the time you spend with your loved ones?
Take your sweetheart for a romantic Valentine’s walk. In fact, why not deepen the relationship and commit to walk together three times a week? This will help you both reach your 150 minutes of weekly exercise goal and deepen the romantic bond as well.
Perhaps you love baking cookies with your kids? In an effort to educate them about heart-healthy eating habits, can you instead start preparing food together featuring less sugar and more produce? Help your children discover that smoothies with added veggies can still taste sweet and delicious. Show them that you can sneak carrots into marinara sauce, zucchini into baked goods and cauliflower into mac-and-cheese. Your kids may be so delighted to discover the art of “hiding secret vegetables,” that they’ll eat more creatively and healthily for years to come.
We hope these resources can help you show your heart some love. If you would like to learn more, check out the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women website.
— GoRedforWomen (@GoRedForWomen) September 25, 2018