Women: Don’t Ignore Your Heart
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Published on March 03, 2017

woman making heart with hands

Women: Don’t Ignore Your Heart

If you think your only concern as a woman should be breast cancer — think again. The No. 1 killer among women is actually heart disease, which kills one out of four women every year.

Thankfully, there are ways to protect yourself at any age. You should be thinking about heart health startomg today, said Michael Hibbard, MD, FACC, Cardiologist with Avera Heart Hospital.

“Research indicates that heart disease is on the rise for women between the ages of 35 and 44 due to an increase in obesity and diabetes.”

Everyone’s arteries age with each year, so it’s guaranteed your heart isn’t as healthy as it once was. That’s only compounded with poor lifestyle choices.

Just think, your heart beats 100,000 times a day and pumps 2,000 gallons of blood through 60,000 miles of arteries each day, Hibbard said.

“If you clapped your hands that much for 40 years straight what would your hands look like? They would be raw,” Hibbard said.

The key factors that can decrease your risk of heart disease include:

  • Get regular exercise. The recommendation is 2 ½ hours every week of moderate activity such as brisk walking. Muscle strengthening is also recommended at least twice a week.
  • Eat a healthy diet and limit alcohol. Focus on a plant-based diet and limit red meat and processed foods that are often high in sugar, sodium and saturated fats. Whole grains, fish and legumes should be in your diet mix as well.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. This can be a concern as you age and your metabolism slows. The best way to avoid weight gain is to follow the steps above. You decrease your risk by 80 percent by simply maintaining your ideal body weight, Hibbard said.
  • Check your blood sugar in addition to cholesterol and blood pressure. If you’re overweight you are at risk for diabetes, which can in turn increase your risk of heart disease. For women with diabetes the risk of developing heart disease is even higher than men.

Besides leading a healthy lifestyle it’s important to know the signs of heart attack. Women are less likely to experience chest pain and more likely to have atypical symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Back or jaw pain

If you think you may be having a heart attack call 911 – don’t wait and see if the symptoms go away.

If you may be at risk for heart disease, consider a heart screening at a location near you.

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