Every 90 seconds, a woman suffers a heart attack in the United States. It is the number one killer of women in this country; one out of two women will die from heart disease or a stroke. Roughly 25% of those who have heart attacks will die from their first heart attack or stroke, and the other 75% will be unable to ever return to their old lifestyle.
Many women do not recognize the symptoms of a heart attack, figuring that if there is no chest pain, they are okay. But they often ignore such other signs as:
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, or pain in the back, stomach or jaw
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Fainting or light-headedness
- Severe pressure or fullness in the chest that doesn’t go away or returns after subsiding
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
It is important to call 911 immediately if you or someone you know has these symptoms. Seniors should not assume that they are immune because they exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, have good cholesterol numbers or think it’s a man’s disease (heart disease actually strikes more women than men).
The risks of women having a heart attack increase with age. The onset of heart disease often occurs at least a decade after men, but that doesn’t mean women are immune from heart disease.
Decreased mobility can lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and inactivity, which is challenging…considering the fact that exercise (at least 150 minutes a week) is strongly recommended as a way to reduce the risk of heart disease.
As we age, blood pressure naturally rises. Women are at an increased risk if their high blood pressure is not controlled.
Women with diabetes are also at a higher risk for heart disease than men with diabetes.
Additionally, women’s estrogen levels decrease after menopause. Estrogen has been proven to somehow protect the heart, so less estrogen can increase heart disease risks.
The odds of getting heart disease do not have to be against women, especially seniors. Here are some recommendations that can add years to a woman’s life:
- Don’t smoke
- Monitor and control blood pressure
- Exercise at least 30 minutes each day
- Avoid depression (another risk factor) by staying socially active and in close touch with friends and family
- Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. Heart-healthy super foods include blueberries, tomatoes, sardines, whole grains and beans.
- Reduce stress with activities such as yoga that focus on breathing and relaxation
- Get cholesterol checked regularly
- Manage diabetes if you have the condition
February is Heart Health Month, and the American Heart Association aims to raise awareness of disease prevention. All women are in invited to post photos of them wearing something red on social media, as part of its Go Red for Women initiative of supporting the fight against heart disease (www.goredforwomen.org). It’s a commitment women can make to help save lives and donate toward reducing the incidence of heart disease. Please share this information with women in your life who are seniors, as well as younger women. Heart attacks can often be prevented, for both women AND men.
Homecare Assistance of Fort Worth can help educate your senior on the importance of reducing the risk for heart disease, and encourage them to live a more heart-healthy lifestyle.