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Healthy Her | Heart Health

Healthy Her | Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, a time to focus on our cardiovascular health. It may surprise you to know that over 60 million women (44%) in the United States are living with some form of heart disease making it the number 1 cause of death for women in the U.S. It is important to know the signs, symptoms, and risk factors of heart disease so you can protect yourself and your loved ones’ cardiovascular health.

Risk factors for heart disease include:

  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Excess weight
  • Unhealthy diet
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Stress
  • Depression

Women in particular have extra risks related to reproductive health. Those include:

  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • History of preterm delivery
  • History of hypertensive disorders during pregnancy
  • Delivery of a low birth weight infant
  • Early onset of menstrual cycle (before 11)
  • Early onset of menopause (before 40)

Another thing to consider is that high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. African American women are nearly 60% more likely to have high blood pressure than white women. 56 million American women have high blood pressure and the latest data suggests that only 1 in 4 of these women have their condition under control.

Many women are undiagnosed because some women may not experience symptoms (or have only minor symptoms). Dr. Megan Courtney, cardiologist with Diagnostic & Medical Clinic, shared this about the symptoms of heart disease, “I advise all my patients to be attentive to typical heart disease symptoms such as chest discomfort or shortness of breath as well as less obvious signs that could manifest as decreased exercise tolerance or severe fatigue.”

Additional symptoms could include:

  • Dull or heavy chest pain
  • Pain in the neck, jaw, or throat
  • Pain in the upper abdomen or back
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive tiredness

These symptoms may appear while active or while at rest. It is important to pay attention to the signals our bodies send us and let your provider know what you are experiencing.

The first line of defense against heart disease is prevention. Make an appointment with your primary care provider to discuss your health and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. They can help create customized action plan for you to achieve optimal health and wellness.

Want to learn more about Women’s health? Join our Facebook community group dedicated to women’s health and wellness!