February is American Heart Month: Go Red for Women

Feb. 7, 2020

This month is American Heart Month and today, in particular, is National Wear Red Day through the National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute. Both the NIH and American Heart Association have some great resources to help educate Americans on cardiovascular disease and the importance of increasing your physical activity to ward off these diseases and improve your heart health. Below is just a handful of information and resources.

Facts about heart disease and women: 

  • Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths per year. 
  • Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died each year from heart disease. 

Common Myths about heart disease in Women:

  • Heart disease is for old people Wrong! Heart disease affects women of all ages. For younger women, the combination of birth control pills and smoking boosts heart disease risks by 20 percent. And while the chances do increase with age, things like overeating and a sedentary lifestyle can cause plaque to accumulate and lead to clogged arteries later in life. 
  • Heart disease causes chest pain in everyone – Sorry Wrong Again! 64% of women who die suddenly of coronary artery disease had no earlier symptoms. Because these symptoms vary significantly between men and women, they are often misunderstood. The media has conditioned us to believe that the telltale sign of a heart attack is extreme chest pain. But women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. Other symptoms women should look out for are dizziness, feeling lightheaded or fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue. 

Things you can do to decrease your risk:

  • Increase your fruit and vegetable intake to 4.5 cups per day.
  • Eat a 3.5oz serving of fish at least twice per week. 
  • Eat at least 3 1oz servings of whole grains daily
  • Eat four servings of nuts per week
  • Limit your sodium intake to 1500 mg per day
  • Reach for water, whether carbonated or flat, instead of sugary drinks.
  • Eat no more than two servings of processed meat per week.
  • Limit saturated fats to 7% of the total calories consumed in a day
  • Get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking) per day.
  • Have a fasting lipid panel done yearly and discuss treatment options with your provider if needed.

For heart-healthy recipes, like fish tacos, please check out this site from the American Heart Association

Resources: 

National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute 

American Heart Association 

Image courtesy of NIH