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Women and Heart Disease

Women and Heart Disease

As a child I remember my mother and grandmother seldom enjoying a hot meal. This was especially true when they entertained the extended family during holidays. They were usually the last people to sit down and the first ones to stand if something was needed, forever searing this model of self-sacrifice for generations to come. Please, don’t get me wrong, serving others before yourself is not only generational, it’s Christian! But when caring for others leads to self-neglect the facts reveal long-term damage to the body, especially with respect to cardiovascular health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the number one killer of women in the United States accounting for one out of every five female deaths in 2017 (CDC, 2020). Heart disease, or cardiovascular disease, encompasses everything related to the heart, blood vessels and factors that compromises the way they function. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) every year a woman’s chance of dying from a heart attack or stroke are “one in three” but the good news is that “eighty percent of cardiac and stroke events can be prevented” by being aware of the symptoms of heart attack and taking action (AHA, 2021).

Women do not always experience heart attacks the same way men do. The most common symptom of pain, tightness or discomfort in the chest can be mild or strong lasting several minutes or even go away only to return at a later time (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHS, 2019). More subtle symptoms common in women, may be overlooked as early warning signs of a heart attack. These symptoms include:

· Pain in the back, neck, jaw or throat

· Indigestion or heartburn

· Nausea or Vomiting

· Extreme fatigue

· Problems breathing (DHS, 2019).

If you are feeling any of the symptoms above, get a ride to the nearest emergency room as soon as possible or call 911. Getting medical attention fast is important. Medical care can begin in the ambulance on the way to the hospital as treatments for “clogged arteries work best within the first hour after a heart attack starts” (DHS, 2019).

Lifestyle changes, and a little self-care once in a while, can help lower your chance of heart attacks all together. Knowing your blood pressure and working with your doctor to keep it under control will go a long way in reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke (CDC, 2020). Having annual physicals to check blood sugar and cholesterol levels as well as developing ways to maintain an optimal weight will also reduce your risks. Lastly, limiting alcohol, increasing exercise and getting help to quit smoking will improve your heart health so you can continue serving the ones you love well into the future.

American Heart Association. (2021). Warning signs & symptoms of heart attack and stroke: Heart disease in women.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Women and heart disease.

Department of Health and Human Services: Office on Women’s Health. (2019). Heart attack symptoms.

Kitt RN,BSN Kitt is the registered nurse at a growing cardiology and primary care and urgent care practice in a rural community in Northeast Wisconsin.

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