February Heart Month
February – Women & Heart Disease
“ Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT
There is a misconception that cancer is the greatest health risk for women, especially breast cancer. In reality, heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer put together. Minority women have the highest death rate from heart disease while the entire gender has a higher death rate from stroke than men. Part of the problem is that heart disease is displayed differently in women than in men so it becomes difficult to recognize in women if the observer doesn’t know the difference in symptoms.
The classic symptoms for heart attack are severe chest pain, a squeezing sensation in the chest lasting 5-10 minutes, pain radiating down the left arm or profuse sweating. Up to 50% of women who suffer heart attacks have symptoms that are considered atypical. These include shortness of breath, indigestion, pain in the jaw, shoulder, or back, sudden nausea or vomiting, unexplained fatigue, fainting, or even dizziness. Anytime a female experiences these symptoms, she should seek medical attention by calling 911. Even a slight hesitation could lead to severe consequences if she is having a cardiac episode.
Plaque buildup can be different in women also. In men it tends to be clumpy and irregular which responds well to angioplasty and stents that flatten out the plaque. In some women, plaque forms an even layer on the vessel lining which means drug therapy works better than angioplasty. Women also respond to aspirin differently. In women, it seems more effective in preventing stroke while in men it is more effective for heart attack prevention.
For a woman, the most important thing to do is talk to her physician. She should discuss her health history and determine potential risks for heart disease. The next step would be to create a plan to change or impact those risks and follow the doctor’s instructions. Women are the same but different. It is important to find out individual needs and then address them. (Source: www.mayoclinic.com)
Week 1 –“For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.” Proverbs 2:10 NLT
You have heard of cholesterol levels but do you know what they mean? LDL is the ‘bad cholesterol’ and stands for ‘low density lipoprotein cholesterol.’ It builds up on the walls of your arteries and can cause cardiac problems. To lessen your risk of heart disease, your LDL number should be below 100. HDL is ‘high density lipoprotein cholesterol’ and is the good kind because it keeps the LDL from building up in your arteries. For women this number should be above 40. Triglycerides are fats and the higher the number the greater risk of disease. This number should be less than 150. Total cholesterol is the combination of LDL and HDL found in your bloodstream and should be less than 200. To keep these numbers under control, watch your diet and limit fatty foods.
Week 2 – “The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish.” Psalm 25:17 NIV
Indigestion is one of the symptoms of heart disease so how do you determine when it is heart related and when it is the hot peppers you just ate? Since heartburn is not life-threatening, pay attention to other symptoms you may be having. Are you experiencing any heavy sweating, heart palpitations, or shortness of breath? If so, it could be heart-related and you should see a physician right away. Heartburn will generally occur after a heavy meal and is quickly relieved with antacids. If you have any question at all, call 911, go to the ER, and see a physician to rule out cardiac problems. It’s better to find the episode is a false alarm rather than be surprised by a heart attack.
Week 3 –“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.” Psalm 28:7 NLT
Women need to be specifically concerned about two risk factors. Depression is twice as common in women and doubles or triples the risk of heart disease over women without depression. The feelings of disinterest and hopelessness make living a healthy lifestyle difficult, especially when trying to remedy any weight gain. Menopause is the other risk factor because of the changes in hormone levels. Studies have shown that a decrease in estrogen may contribute to higher risk of heart attack but hormone replacement is not unconditionally recommended. Rather, lifestyle changes are encouraged to minimize the impact of menopause and decrease the risk of heart attack.
Week 4 –“His heart is secure, he will have no fear; in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.” Psalm 112:8 NIV
To decrease your risk for heart disease it is important to maintain a healthy weight and to promote good circulation. Exercise can do that and should be part of your daily life. The optimum amount of exercise is 30-60 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. If it is difficult to carve out that much time, break it down into 10-15 minute sessions to get the same benefit. The most economical exercise is walking since the only cost is a good pair of walking shoes. Set a course that gets the blood pumping and offers you a contemplative setting. This will strengthen your heart and relax your mind. If you work better with support, find a walking buddy to keep you on track for a healthy heart.