Educate yourself about women and heart disease—and make your personal well a priority to receive a gift that lasts a lifetime.
No matter what stage you’re at in life—preparing for your first child, the mother of young children or high school or college kids, an empty nester tending to aging parents or enjoying the freedom of retirement—chances are you have some level of stress and life imbalance.
Make this the year to take your heart health seriously—because heart disease doesn’t just impact men. The statistics are staggering and sobering: The American Heart Association predicts that almost one in three women is estimated to die of heart disease or stroke, whereas only one in 33 is estimated to die of breast cancer. With more than 500,000 deaths in the U.S. annually, heart disease claims a woman’s life every minute.
How can women prevent a heart attack?
Women of all ages are at risk: Nearly 9,000 women under 45 years of age suffer from a heart attack each year. More women die of heart disease each year than all types of cancer plus other diseases combined, more than 11 times that of breast cancer.
So how do you find the joy in life without making yourself sick or driving yourself into a state of frenzy? Or worse yet—how do you avoid developing stress-induced anxiety or other medical conditions, such as heart disease? The answer can be found by adopting a self-care routine that includes meditation, exercise, plenty of rest and a healthy diet. In fact, as a Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM) who has helped support and educate women of all ages on healthcare for eleven years, I am passionate about developing a lifestyle that promotes a healthy heart.
Take Charge, Take Heart. Eighty percent of heart attacks are preventable with lifestyle modification and risk factor reduction. Women need to take charge of their heart health and know their risk factors, make lifestyle modifications and take the appropriate medication when necessary—and some women need to get a coronary calcium-scoring test.
Be Aware. Cardiac risk factors that women should be aware of, regardless of age or family history, include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Physical inactivity
- Family history—women, under the age of 65
- Older age—women, over the age of 55
Make Changes. Some lifestyle modifications that women take to prevent heart disease include:
- Don’t smoke, or quit smoking. Smoking causes plaque to form in blood vessels; may cause clots to form; reduces HDL (or good cholesterol).
- Control your weight. People 30 pounds or more overweight are more likely to develop heart disease EVEN if they have no other risk factors.
- Eat Veggies, whole grains, fruit, low-fat or non-dairy products, fish, nuts, legumes, lean meats. Limit intake of saturated fats. Avoid trans fats. Limit salt intake. Moderate alcohol consumption.
- Take medication when necessary: High blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease.
- Be physically active. Even 30 minutes a day helps.
- Relax. Incorporate meditation into your daily routine.
- Shuteye. Get enough sleep every night—at least 8 hours.
- Find balance in life. Women take care of everyone around them—it’s easy to lose sight of themselves and their well being.
Consult with your physician to see if you are a candidate for a Coronary Calcium Scoring Test, based upon your age and risk factors. A good option for some women, this simple procedure uses a special X-ray test called computed tomography (CT) to check for buildup of calcium and plaque on the walls of the arteries of the heart (coronary arteries). This test is used to check for heart disease in an early stage and to determine how severe it is. Coronary calcium scans are also called cardiac calcium scoring.
- Know your score. It can help you and your physician know your risk. See your healthcare practitioner at least once a year and determine if you are a candidate for a Coronary Calcium Scoring Test. Heart scans can be beneficial to people with no symptoms of heart disease, but have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or family history of heart disease.