American Heart Month

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Most of us know that Valentine’s Day, a day all about romantic love and fine chocolates, is February 14th.  But did you know that February is National Heart Month, and that the first Friday of February, which happens to be today, is National Wear Red Day?  National Wear Red Day is a day set aside to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease, which is the number one deadliest disease among Americans.  Contrary to popular belief, heart disease kills more people than all the different types of cancers combined. This day focuses on Heart Disease in women specifically.  Because less studies are done on women than men and less information is made readily available to them, women are less likely to recognize the symptoms of heart disease and  they are much more likely to be mis-diagnosed.  It is for all these reasons that we need to stand strong as women and be vigilant in lowering our risks through a healthy lifestyle, as well as by informing other women and men.

The unfortunate reality is that women often show up in the Emergency Room only after they have already experienced damage to their heart following a heart attack.  For this reason, it is important for us to know the warning signs, and to call an ambulance immediately should we experience any of them.

* Nausea
*Heavy sweating
*Shortness of breath
*Pain in the neck, jaw, shoulder, arm, back or abdomen

Whereas most of us have been bombarded with the image of a man experiencing excruciating chest pain while having a heart attack, fewer of us invision a woman having one.  A heart attack can be characterized by lasting or intermittent pain in the chest area.  However, it is important to note that we could have a heart attack without major chest pain as well.  Many women describe a “pressure or tightness” in their chest, rather than the debilitating pain often associated with a cardiovascular episode.

So what can we do to reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease?
*Exercise regularly (ideally at least 30 min a day, 5 times a week)
*Maintain a healthy weight (generally speaking, a waist circumference of under 35 inches, and a BMI of 25 or less)

*Eat a healthy diet (rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein and healthy fats, such as the Mediterranean diet  –and low in trans fats, added or artificial sugars and salt.  Salmon, oatmeal and citrus are 3 foods that are excellent for good cardiovascular health)

*Manage stress
*Limit alcohol (1 drink a day or less for women;  2 drinks or less for men)
*Don’t smoke

We can become fearful of cardiovascular disease or we can make the proper adjustments to our lifestyle to lower our risk of getting it.  Being more active, eating nutritious foods and passing the word along will be MY course of action.  What will yours be?  You are in the driver’s seat.

Endnotes:  goredforwomen.org;  mayoclinic.org;  Channel 5 News 2/7/19
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