February 02, 2016

​A Valentine for Your Heart

It’s no coincidence that the month of February, with its Valentine’s Day symbols and celebrations, is also designated Heart Health Awareness Month.

More than any cancer, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, yet most women are not aware of the risk, the symptoms, or how to prevent heart disease from striking them. WHIO data show that while hypertension rates for Wisconsin men and women are nearly equal, men are treated for coronary artery disease twice as often as women.

Although healthy eating and exercise are always encouraged and can decrease the risk, heart disease can hit whether you are young or old, lean or overweight, athletic or sedentary.

Until recently, it was always assumed that the sign of a heart attack was extreme chest pain; and that is the most typical symptom in men. But we now know that women can experience different symptoms that are not as well-recognized and, thus, not treated as quickly.

Women’s symptoms are often not as severe as crushing chest pain. For a woman, the symptoms of a heart attack can be pain in the upper back, neck, jaw or one or both arms, pressure in the chest, nausea, palpitations, a cold sweat, or shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms, the American Heart Association recommends, and most doctors and clinics will tell you to, call 911 and get to a hospital. Do not drive yourself.

The symptoms of a heart attack in women may be subtle, but the results can be deadly. So this Valentine’s Day, love your heart by learning how to keep it healthy.