Heart attack is the #1 killer among women, surpassing all forms of cancer combined,says the American Heart Association
February is Heart Awareness Month and, while you should certainly consult your physician if you have problems, concerns or symptoms, there are also some easy action steps you can do yourself to help maintain your heart’s health.
- First, you must be aware that the symptoms are very different for women and men. Women almost never experience that “elephant sitting on the chest” feeling that men do but, rather, they may feel fatigued, dizzy, short of breath or weak. Women may also have sudden sleep disturbances, cold sweats or feelings of indigestion—which can often be diagnosed as a gastrointestinal problem.
- Know your risk factors. Some, like smoking, are obvious. But check your blood pressure frequently; there’s a reason it’s referred to as “the silent killer.” Monitor your cholesterol and blood sugar levels–especially if diabetes runs in your family or if you have any other risk factors. The National Diabetes Fact Sheet says that 25.8 million adults and children are affected by diabetes—that’s 8.3 percent of the population.
- Get regular physical activity. There are many benefits to exercise, but here are two that respond directly to heart health. First, exercise enhances mood by releasing endorphins, those natural “feel-good” substances; if you have trouble with anxiety that could be an answer. Try to aim for 30 minutes of exercise a day. Short on time? Here’s a sampling of what you can burn just by working around the house: Vacuuming, 90; mopping, 110; gardening, 250; mowing, 150.
- Don’t ignore the importance of self-care! Are you anxious or have trouble sleeping? Try meditation, yoga, a walk or a hot bath or reading before bed.
- Monitor your diet and nutrition. Sugar contributes to a lot of diseases, including heart. It significantly increases triglycerides. Americans eat far too much sugar, 100 pounds per year. In comparison, we eat about eight (8) pounds of broccoli a year. It’s often hidden in foods like ketchup, peanut butter and baby food. Sugar is also disguised as various names; I remember being in the supermarket and a food product screamed in big red block letters: “Now, with no high fructose corn syrup!” When I read the list of ingredients I found fructose, maltose and dextrose, all other names for sugar. Put in perspective, an average sized woman should eat no more than 6.25 teaspoons per day, but even one of those so-called health bars has five (5) teaspoons in its lemon flavored one, while a popular flavored coffee drink has 10.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Right now, between 55-60 percent of Americans (both women and men) are considered overweight or obese. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, obesity is one of the top four (4) preventable risk factors for pre-mature mortality.
- Communication is key! Be clear with your doctor about your goals, challenges, concerns and any symptoms you may be experiencing. Tell him or her anyway about symptoms, even if they seem vague to you, as they can sometimes be a precursor to another problem. Be open and honest–don’t be afraid to ask if you don’t understand something.
This article was written by one of our partners Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP. She is a certified certified nutritional and wellness coach who helps people instantly double their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their lives.
Irene Ross is author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways To Fire Up Your Day: Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life. Her website is: www.eating4achieving.com.