Why American Heart Month Should Be The No.1 Health Awareness Campaign For U.S Women

By Caitlin Hoff

On February first, the country kicked off celebrations for American Heart Month, and health organizations across the nation began campaigns to educate more people and share important information regarding heart health and heart disease. One such organization, GoRedForWomen, goes beyond general awareness and aims to reach more women in their outreach efforts every year. Why women? Because 90% of American women suffer from at least one risk factor of heart disease or stroke.

Contrary to popular belief, heart disease, not cancer, is the number one leading cause of adult female deaths in the United States. It causes one out of every three female deaths in the country. Shocking though it may be, this statistic only worsens when you realize that many cases of heart disease could be prevented or the severity lessened with simple lifestyle changes and general awareness the disease.

While heart disease affects both men and women significantly, women tend to experience symptoms of a heart attack differently than men. Aside from chest pain, a woman might experience insomnia, fatigue, indigestion, and even throat or jaw pain. Without prior knowledge of these more unusual symptoms and their tie to heart disease, many women ignore or underplay these symptoms and don’t seek help until they are in critical condition.

Before you suffer from a heart attack or develop a cardiovascular illness, learn more about your chances of developing heart disease and make lifestyle changes to proactively reduce your risk.

Know Your Risk

The main risk factors of heart disease can be divided into two categories: things that you can control, and factors that you can’t. Factors you can’t control include age, gender, race, personal medical history, and your family’s medical history. While you may not be able to change any of these, knowing your added threat of heart disease based on these factors can encourage you to reduce the factors that you can control.

Speaking of which, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking habits, and type 2 diabetes are all controllable causes of heart disease. Knowing your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels, along with determining your body fat percentage is the first step in understanding your risks. If you do one thing in honor of American Heart Month this February, consider talking to your doctor about your numbers and their significance to your heart health.

Reduce Your Risk

Once your know your chances for heart disease, it’s a lot easier to prevent it. Looking at the factors above, here are three simple ways to address your threat of heart disease.

  1. Quit Smoking – Not only is smoking linked to several types of pulmonary ailments and cancers, but smoking also contributes to a higher risk of heart disease and a possible heart attack. Nicotine constricts your blood vessels which raises your blood pressure and makes your heart work that much harder to pump blood throughout the body. It can also damage your blood vessels and increase your chances of blood clots and thus increase your risk of heart attacks.
  2. Reduce your Cholesterol – Did you know that over 30% of the U.S. population suffers from high cholesterol levels? High cholesterol levels can lead to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is caused by excess plaque buildup, which can reduce the flow of blood in your arteries, potentially causing a deposit of plaque to break off and clog your arteries. Because of this, people with high cholesterol see a greater probability of frequent chest pain, heart attacks, and strokes.

To reduce cholesterol, some people are prescribed statins to lower their LDL, or bad cholesterol, as well as blood thinners if they have a history of blood clots. While these medications can be effective in reducing high cholesterol and protecting a person from a heart attack, they also come with their own dangers. For example, thousands of patients taking the anticoagulant Xarelto filed lawsuits after experiencing severe bleeding incidents and other harmful side-effects.

In order to avoid both the harmful effects of high cholesterol and the adverse side effects of some prescription medications, most doctors would first recommend a diet change to lower cholesterol. Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that a reduction in saturated fats, trans fats, refined grains and sugars within a person’s diet can lead to lower cholesterol levels. Consider a diet full of whole grains, lean meats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables that will also help you maintain a healthy weight.

  1. Exercise More – A regular exercise routine can do so much to reduce your possibility of heart disease. It has been shown to reduce blood pressure and the stress often associated with it. Exercise can also help manage diabetes and high cholesterol levels. Perhaps most significantly, exercise can help you control your weight. Extra weight or obesity has a notable correlation with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise” to improve your overall heart health.

One woman dies nearly every minute in the U.S. because of heart disease. By making small changes to our daily lives, we can ensure a long, healthy, heart-disease free lifetime for us and our families. Whether your risk is low or high, commit to one change this February to improve your heart health. Then, continue to share your knowledge about heart disease with your loved ones all year long. With a greater effort on healthy lifestyle choices and general awareness, we can change the statistics on heart disease.



Caitlin Hoff uses her background in product design and her passion for health and wellness to educate consumers. She strives to help people make smart decisions affecting their personal health and that of their families.You can follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

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