By Tracey Arwood, CNM
On Friday, February 2rd, people across the nation will be sporting red attire in celebration of “National Go Red for Women” day. The American Heart Association (AHA) designated February 2nd as Go Red day to raise awareness about heart disease among women.
According to the AHA, 2,200 Americans die daily from heart disease and stroke. Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, causing one out of every three deaths per year–more than all cancers combined.
Ninety percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease. Even the warning signs of heart problems are different for women than they are for men. Heart disease doesn’t affect all women the same way. Women are also less likely to recognize when they are having signs of heart attack or stroke in time to call 911.
Knowing warning signs of heart attack and stroke can also save your life.
Symptoms of a heart attack include chest pressure, tightness, or pain; discomfort in arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach; shortness of breath; cold sweat; nausea, or lightheadedness.
Symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg; sudden confusion or trouble speaking; sudden blurred vision; sudden trouble walking; dizziness or lack of coordination, and sudden severe headache.
If you experience any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Call an ambulance or have someone take you to the nearest emergency room. Try to stay calm and take deep slow breaths while waiting for emergency care.
It’s also important to remember that women over age 55 are at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
Risk factors for heart disease include family history, personal history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking. Some of these risk factors are controllable, others are not. With the right changes and action, heart disease can be treated and prevented.
There are several steps women can take to decrease risk and to prevent heart attack and stroke.
An active, healthy lifestyle is the first step to decreasing cardiovascular risk. Make it your goal this year to quit smoking. Maintain healthy blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Exercise daily. Decrease stress.
Modify your diet to include fruits and vegetables, limiting sugars and excess fats. Losing as little as 10 pounds can significantly decrease your heart disease risk.
Fortunately, the majority of cardiovascular disease is preventable with education and lifestyle change.
All women should schedule an annual well woman visit and screening bloodwork with a healthcare provider.
Tracey Arwood, CNM, is a specialist in women’s health, and she provides wellness and prevention healthcare for area women. She will review your cardiac risk with you and discuss actions to take that could save your life.
To make an appointment with Arwood, contact the TCMH Medical Complex in Houston at (417)967-5637 or the TCMH Mountain Grove Clinic at (417)926-1770.