What women need to know about heart health, rising heart attacks – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Tuesday, February 1, marks the start of American Heart Month. The American Heart Association’s annual effort means it’s time to raise awareness about heart health, especially for women and communities of color.
The facts about heart health in women are concerning, but important to know:
- Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women.
- Women, especially black and Hispanic women, are disproportionately affected by heart disease and stroke.
- Research shows that heart attacks are on the rise in young women.
- At least 48% – almost half – of all adults in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease.
- Cardiovascular disease is the no. 1 new mom killer.
- Pregnancy-related deaths in the United States are increasing at an alarming rate – and cardiovascular disease is the leading cause.
“When it comes to cardiovascular disease, our own behaviors and choices have the greatest impact on your future risk,” said Dr. Sreenivas Gudimetla, cardiologist at Texas Health Fort Worth. “It’s good to establish good healthy habits early in life.”
He said it’s important because another problem he sees in his patients is obesity, which leads to higher rates of people with type 2 diabetes in their 20s and 30s.
“It was almost unheard of 40 or 50 years ago. It increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease,” Gudimetla said. “When we’re in our 20s, we have this attitude that we’re invincible. But the problem is that we don’t get the message across very clearly that it’s time to start taking care of yourself. Don’t wait to having a midlife crisis in your 40s and 50s.”
Heart Health Month 2
Data suggests younger generations of women, Gen Z and Millennials, are less likely to be aware of their biggest health threat, including knowing the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes. .
Often, Gudimetla said, patients who come to him with a cardiac event are already at a very advanced stage of their disease process.
“Once you develop cardiovascular disease, you can’t make it go away. We can manage it with wonderful procedures and medications etc., but we cannot cure it and it is important to know that,” Gudimetla said.
KNOW YOUR HEART
Doctors hope knowing the symptoms of a heart attack can save a life. Symptoms can include the following:
- Feeling of pain, pressure, squeezing, or fullness in the chest
- Jaw, neck or even back or stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms may differ between women and men.
“This has been a historic challenge for many years because mortality from cardiovascular disease in women is much higher than in men,” Gudimetla said. “It’s a difficult part of diagnosing cardiovascular disease, symptoms can vary across that spectrum and so people can fall through the cracks as a result.”
Women don’t always see all of these classic symptoms. It can be one or two symptoms or none.
“The challenge with women is that they don’t often have these classic symptoms. They might have some kind of unexplained shortness of breath. Another symptom that women very often miss is fatigue and feeling tired,” a- he declared. “Unfortunately, that’s why a lot of heart attacks are missed, because you can have a range of symptoms even down to silent heart attacks, with no symptoms at all. It’s more common in the diabetic population, for example, that can range from that to severe enough symptoms where you feel compelled to go get it checked out right away.”
COVID-19 has also presented several different cardiac impacts for those who are infected.
Some experience very low heart rates, prolonged shortness of breath that lasts for months after contracting COVID, and inflammation of the heart. All of these things are alarming to doctors and are still being studied and researched at this time.
“We’re seeing everything that we call COVID myocarditis, which is basically viral inflammation of the heart muscle – which can cause heart muscle to weaken and heart failure. We also observed various arrhythmias in COVID patients,” Guidmetla said.
Gudimetla offers general practices people can start right now on their journey to a healthier heart:
- Do not smoke cigarettes
- Follow a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables and white meats.
- Be physically active
- Maintain a healthy weight
The American College of Cardiology recommends 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous physical activity, or about 30 minutes a day five days a week.
“What is defined as moderate-intensity activity is – during the activity you feel like you are exercising, but you are able to complete a sentence during the activity without having to stop to breathe “said Gudimetla. “We’re not talking about running or marathon training. We’re talking about aerobic exercise and a brisk walk for example.”
According to the American Heart Association, 80% of cardiac events can be prevented with education and lifestyle changes, such as moving more, eating smarter, and managing blood pressure.
That’s why it’s important to know your numbers. Discuss the following personal health numbers with your doctor to help determine heart disease risk:
- Total cholesterol
- HDL (good) cholesterol
- Arterial pressure
- blood sugar
- Body Mass Index (BMI)
“The target BMI is between 18 and 24.9. Between 25 and 30 is considered overweight and above 30 is obese,” Gudimetla said.
Knowing your family history is also essential. Tell your doctor about heart disease and stroke if these conditions run in your family.
If you have a family history, take your health into your own hands. If you can tick the box for one of the following factors, you are at higher risk for cardiovascular problems:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Lack of regular activity
- Obesity or overweight
To show support for these issues and to encourage women to be aware of risk factors for heart problems, people are encouraged to wear red this Friday for National Wear Red Day.