Heart disease is the number one killer of women over age 25 in the United States, regardless of race or ethnicity. In fact, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of more women than all forms of cancer combined. However, relatively few women identify cardiovascular disease as their greatest health risk. Moreover, women do not always experience the same heart attack symptoms as men, such as crushing chest pain that radiates down one arm.
In fact, and many women experience vague or even “silent” symptoms that they may miss, such as:
• Feeling extremely tired, even after getting enough rest;
• Shortness of breath or lightheadedness;
• Pain or tightness in the chest;
• Pain in back, neck, shoulders, the jaw, ear, or the inside of the arms;
• Nausea or stomach pain;
• An ache or burning feeling in the chest; or
• Sweating more than usual.
February is American Heart Month, and a perfect time to increase awareness of the causes of heart disease and ways to live a healthier life.
In 2003, the American Heart Association recognized that, although cardiovascular disease claimed the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year, many women were not paying attention. The American Heart Association teamed up with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to create National Wear Red Day on the first Friday in February to raise awareness and support the fight against heart disease in women.
The following year, the AHA also created Go Red For Women — an initiative developed to empower women to take charge of their heart health and to band together to collectively wipe out heart disease. Funds raised by Go Red For Women allow the AHA to offer educational programs to increase women’s understanding about their risk for heart disease and support scientific research on heart health.
The best news is that heart disease is often preventable and there are many ways to reduce your risk. The AHA recommends following “Life’s Simple 7”:
• Do not smoke or use other tobacco products.
• Keep a healthy body weight (a body mass index under 25).
• Exercise each week for at least150 minutes at a moderate-intensity level or 75 minutes at a vigorous intensity-level.
• Eat a healthy diet according to AHA recommendations, i.e. eat a diet consisting primarily of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and fish while limiting your intake of sugar, salt, processed foods and saturated fat.
• Keep your total cholesterol under than 200 mg/dL.
• Keep your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.
• Keep fasting blood glucose levels under 100 mg/dL.
This year GRAWA was thrilled to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Go Red Day by partnering with the American Heart Association to educate women and raise funds for the Go Red For Women campaign. On Feb. 1, GRAWA joined members of our local AHA at Veritas Wine Bar at 217 Alexander St. in Rochester for an evening of wine and chocolate tastings. Veritas selectively chose a variety of wines that were paired with innovatively prepared chocolates provided by Encore Chocolates, located in Stutson Bridge Plaza in Irondequoit.
If you missed our event, you too can enjoy a little wine and chocolate this Valentine’s Day while taking care of your heart. After all, moderate alcohol consumption can raise good cholesterol levels and protect against artery damage. Just be mindful of the AHA’s recommendations for moderate drinking — no more than two drinks a day for men and one a day for women.
Chocolate too has received quite a bit of media coverage in recent years because the cocoa bean is rich in a class of plant nutrients called flavonoids. I personally do not care if Hershey funded this study, I am a believer! So enjoy your Valentine this February, while remembering to take care of your heart.
More information on heart health and the AHA’s Go Red for Women Campaign can be found at www.goredforwomen.org.
Kimberly Duguay is the 30th president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys and an appellate attorney at the Monroe County Public Defender Office, where she practices in the areas of criminal and family law.
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