Many women do not realize that their risk of heart attack is as serious as it is for men. Heart disease symptoms often present more strongly in males, so there is a general perception that they are most “at risk.”
Women may ignore signs of trouble (they can be different from those men experience) until it is too late. They are less likely to call for emergency help.
It is critical that you understand possible symptoms so that you know what shouldn’t be ignored and are able to prevent heart attack or stroke.
Top 3 Warning Signs of Heart Attack in Women
- Chest Pain: While this is common in both genders, women may feel it anywhere in the chest region (not just the left side) and it could feel as if you are being squeezed or as if your chest feels “full.”
- Stomach Pain: This could be mistaken for heartburn or as if you have heavy pressure on your abdomen.
- Pain in Arms, Back, or Jaw: Women experience these specific locations during a heart attack more than men who tend to report pain in the left arm or chest only. It may be sudden or it may come and go before intensifying.
Unexplained pain above the waist should always be a cause for concern. Other symptoms that are too often disregarded by women as unimportant are sudden weakness, numbness in the face or torso, severe headaches, shortness of breath, sweating, dizziness, feeling nauseous, or being extremely tired for no reason.
Primary Risk Factors for Heart Attack and Stroke
- Irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation)
- High cholesterol, blood pressure, or blood sugar (diabetes or pre-diabetes)
- Being overweight or obese
- Hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
- Poor diet
- Smoking and consumption of alcohol
- Lack of exercise
- Personal or family history of heart disease
- Age (risk doubles every ten years after age 55)
90% of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease.
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease claims the lives of more than 450,000 women every single year. It is the number one cause of death in women yet less than 20% identifies heart disease as their greatest health risk. That statistic shouldn’t come as a surprise. The media seems to slant heart disease as a “male problem.”
Breast cancer kills 1-in-31 women and heart disease kills 1-in-3 women annually.
How You Can Prevent Heart Attack
Many of the factors that lead to heart attack or stroke are in your control.
Experts estimate that simply making changes to an unhealthy lifestyle would save 25% of the women who die every day. That is more than 300 women who would not die from heart disease today (120,000 lives saved per year).
Top 7 Ways to Prevent Heart Attack
1. Ask your doctor for a C-reactive protein test (C-rp). This can identify dangerous inflammation in the arteries surrounding the heart before you go into distress.
2. Pay attention to your oral hygiene. Gum disease causes body-wide inflammation. By flossing and making annual appointments to have your teeth professionally cleaned, you can lower your inflammation risk.
3. Consider non-hormonal options for birth control and menopause. Long-term use of synthetic hormones increases your risk of heart disease and cancer. For every five years of hormone use, your risk of disease climbs.
4. You might love them…but they’re bad for you. Women should not consume more than one glass of alcohol daily. Alcohol is naturally inflammatory (even red wine if not consumed in moderation). The cigarettes also have to go since they greatly increase your risk of heart disease and many other serious diseases.
5. Get the weight off and keep it off. Obesity causes inflammation throughout your body and makes your heart work harder to pump the blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to the cells that need it. Obesity has now been identified as a major risk factor in cancer, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, metabolic syndrome, and rheumatoid arthritis.
6. Lower your stress levels. Stress leads to inflammation and it simply makes you feel awful. Allow yourself permission to get more sleep, remove toxic scenarios, people or relationships from your life, and surround yourself with positive people. Taking up a yoga class is excellent for improving mobility and lowering stress levels.
7. Diet is the most effective way to prevent heart attack. We chose the name Daily Superfood Love for a reason…the food you eat can either be your greatest enemy or your best friend. Removing processed foods from your eating plan and replacing them with fish, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds is so easy – and delicious.
Berries for Heart Health
New research from the Harvard School of Public Health published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association found that adding at least three servings of strawberries or blueberries to your diet every week reduces your risk of heart attack by more than 30% due to the abundance of a flavonoid called anthocyanin!
Just by eating strawberries and blueberries…you can lower your risk by one-third! These tasty fruits help eliminate plaque buildup and keep the arteries from hardening.
Adding fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna), leafy greens, tomatoes, olive oil, coconut oil, dark chocolate (in moderation), ginger, and turmeric are just a few excellent nutritional options to give your body the fuel it needs to prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and so much more.
Be Selfish about Your Health
Do not be a statistic! Listen to your body and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Women disregard feelings of illness because we are taught very young “not be a bother.”
While you’d instantly call 911 for your child, parent, or co-worker, research shows that women hesitate to make that same call for themselves. “It’s probably nothing.” “I’m blowing it out of proportion.” “I’ll call and end up looking silly.”
When it means preventing a heart attack or stroke – be a bother!
We are often so busy taking care of everyone else around us – spouses, children, friends, and family – that we neglect to take care of ourselves. We forget that in order to “manage the universe” we need to be in top physical condition.
Take the time to determine what changes you need to make to get healthy and keep your body strong for many more decades. You matter… don’t forget.