Are You Listening to Your Heart?
Heartache is the stuff of romcoms, but heart disease can happen to anyone. And it’s not a light comedy — heart disease is the number one cause of death for both women and men.
Do you know what your heart needs? When you’re armed with the facts, you can take the right steps to stay healthier.
Myth: Heart disease is for men. Breast cancer is the real threat for women.
Fact: Heart disease kills more women than men and is deadlier than all forms of cancer combined. While 1 in 31 American women dies from breast cancer each year, 1 in 3 dies from heart disease.
Myth: Heart disease doesn’t affect people under 40.
Fact: Heart disease affects people of all ages. While the risks do increase with age, ignoring weight-gain or high cholesterol while you’re young can set you on the path to heart disease.
Binge-watching Netflix while finishing two bags of tortilla chips doesn’t help. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and poor nutrition are risk factors you can start changing now.
And, if you were born with a heart condition (that you may not know about), you can be affected at any age.
Myth: Heart disease won’t affect me if I’m physically fit.
Fact: Even if you’re a yoga-loving, marathon-running, workout fiend, your risk for heart disease isn’t completely eliminated. Factors like heredity, cholesterol, and smoking can offset your other healthy habits. You can be thin and still have high cholesterol, which means you are more likely to have blockages in your blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack.
A yearly check-up should be part of your fitness regimen. Get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked beginning at age 20, or earlier if you have a family history of heart disease.
Myth: I don’t have any symptoms, so I can’t have heart disease.
Fact: In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds. Many of these people had no previous symptoms. Even when women experience heart attack symptoms, they don’t always know, because the signs vary greatly between men and women.
Women don’t always have the extreme chest pain that men do — the kind of reaction you see in the movies. They are more likely to feel short of breath, nausea, and pain in the stomach area, back, or jaw. Other symptoms are dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, and extreme fatigue — signs you might attribute to everyday stress.
Myth: Heart disease runs in my family, so there’s nothing I can do about it.
Fact: Your family history can affect your risk. But high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking are risk factors that you can change. About half of Americans (49%) have at least one of these three risk factors.
There’s plenty you can do to dramatically reduce your risk. Ask your doctor about creating an action plan to keep your heart healthy. It may include diet and exercise, monitoring or medication for blood pressure, diabetes, and cholesterol, stress reduction, and quitting smoking.
Ready to discuss your heart health? To make an appointment with a cardiologist (heart doctor), call (412) DOCTORS. Learn more at heart.org.
Information from cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm.
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