It goes against the old stereotype, but it’s true: As the Mayo Clinic points out, more women than men die of heart disease each year. Here’s the challenge: heart disease symptoms for women are different than they are for men. As we wrap up this year’s heart month, let’s look today at the challenges women face in their quest for a healthy heart.

Know the symptoms

Surely we know when we’re having a heart attack, right? Not necessarily, especially for women. For example, severe chest pains, the hallmark of the heart attack, may not be present:

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“These symptoms can be more subtle than the obvious crushing chest pain often associated with heart attacks. Women may describe chest pain as pressure or a tightness. This may be because women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries but also in the smaller arteries that supply blood to the heart — a condition called small vessel heart disease or microvascular disease.”

Because of this, a woman might not seek help right away, and sometimes, the damage is already done by the time she does.

Challenges for women of color

Over at womanheart.org, they offer an interesting article on heart risk that focuses on women of color:
“The statistics are sobering. African-American women are 35% more likely to die of heart disease than Caucasian women, while Hispanic women face heart disease nearly 10 years earlier than Caucasian women. Pacific Islander women, long considered at low risk, count heart disease as their second leading cause of death.

Obesity, high cholesterol, poverty, language barriers, physical inactivity, and lack of information all contribute to increased risk factors for women of color. A recent study found that minority patients may have poorer health because of disparities in health care, while another found that minority women were more likely to mistrust their health care provider. These are factors that make it difficult for women to gain control over their heart disease risk.”

Prevention

What’s a girl to do to help prevent heart attacks in the first place? The Mayo Clinic suggests:
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  • Quit or don’t start smoking.
  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day on most days of the week, or 60 to 90 minutes if you need to lose weight.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a diet that’s low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.

That’s good advice for you boys out there, too.

With all the decorative hearts surrounding us for Valentine’s Day every February, it’s really the perfect month to remember and appreciate those real hearts that keep us going every day. Let February 2014 be the American Heart Month where YOU commit to a heart-healthy life style. We like having you here and want you around for a long, long time!

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