Heaven forbid that any readers of this site experience a heart attack. Unfortunately, though, women’s chances of having a heart attack increase as they go through menopause. And as I mentioned in my last sharepost, cardiovascular disease is nothing to sneeze at.
In fact, the Cleveland Clinic reports that heart disease is the top killer of women. “In fact, after age 50, nearly half of all deaths in women are due to some form of cardiovascular disease. That’s more than deaths from all cancers combined,” the clinic’s website states. Additionally, young women who have experienced early or surgical menopause and who don’t take estrogen also have a higher risk for heart disease.
So what are the signs of a heart attack? They actually can differ from what a man experiences. The American Heart Association (AHA) identified four signs that a woman may be having a heart attack. These signs are:
- Experiencing uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the woman’s chest. This sensation may last more than a few minutes or go away and then come back.
- Experiencing pain or discomfort in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Experiencing shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
- Experiencing nausea, lightheadness or breaking out in a cold sweat.
“As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort,” the AHA website states. “But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.” If a woman has any of these signs, AHA warns that 9-1-1 should be called immediately and the woman should be taken to the hospital. Don’t wait more than five minutes before calling for help.
So just a reminder - the best way is to embrace a healthy lifestyle. The Cleveland Clinic recommends six steps:
- Don’t smoke.
- Keep a healthy body weight.
- Exercise 30-40 minutes at least 3-5 times per week. Exercise helps lower high blood pressure and cholesterol, improves blood glucose levels and also reduces stress.
- Eat a healthy diet that is low in saturated fat and trans-fat.
- Control medical conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure that are risk factors for heart disease.
- Take a vitamin supplement.
- With your doctor’s approval, take one adult aspirin every day. Research has found that aspirin decreases stroke risk by 30 percent in women between the ages of 60-65.
So let’s talk about what you should eat. AARP's Patricia Edmonds reports that AHA experts have identified five diet components that make up a heart-healthy diet. These recommendations are:
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. You should aim for the equivalent of 4-1/2 cups or more each day.
- Consume fish. You should eat at least two servings per week, and focus on having oily fish that have heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fish are salmon, mackerel and tuna.
- Enjoy fiber-rich whole grain. You should consume at least three servings daily of unprocessed whole grains, such as whole grain pastas and brown rice.
- Lower your use of salt. Limit your consumption of sodium to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams, much of which is from hidden salts in processed foods.
- Reduce your intake of sugar. You should aim to drink no more than 36 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages each week. Also, women should limit their intake from added sugar to no more than six teaspoons per day. AHA recommends that women should opt for water instead of sweetened beverages.
Committing to a healthy lifestyle can help you prevent heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes. But be sure you know the signs of a heart attack in women so you can make the right decisions if that time does, indeed, come.