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Women & Heart Disease: The Importance of Knowing Your Numbers

If you wondered why women were wearing red earlier this month and thought maybe you’d missed Valentine’s Day, it was because February 4th marks the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Go Red For Women day to highlight how much women are impacted by heart disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States, killing one woman every 80 seconds.

Symptoms of heart disease can include chest, neck, jaw and throat pain, and discomfort in the upper abdomen or back, and can happen either during regular activities, exercise or at rest.   Risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking.  Other conditions that can impact heart health are:

  • Diabetes
  • Being overweight or obese,
  • Eating an unhealthy diet,
  • Not getting regular physical activity,
  • Drinking too much alcohol. 

The Go Red For Women campaign encourages all women to “know your numbers,” such as blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index.  Ideal measures for these numbers for blood pressure, BMI and fasting blood sugar include:

  • Blood pressure 120/80 or less
  • Body Mass Index < 25 kg/m2
  • Fasting Blood Sugar < 100 mg/dl

Regarding cholesterol, you should know your total cholesterol, triglycerides, HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) levels, which vary based on genetics, physical activity, and diet.  Your physician can help you make sense of them and work with you to design an approach designed to lower your overall cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL Cholesterol.

The great news is that most of these parameters are modifiable and are impacted by the daily choices we make in what to eat and drink, how much we engage in physical activity, and how we manage our stress.  The AHA recently released recommendations to improve cardiovascular health which include an emphasis on eating more fruit and vegetables, healthy sources of protein (mostly plants and fish) and minimizing ultra-processed foods, red meat, and sugars.  It’s also recommended that we engage in regular physical activity, either 75 minutes of strenuous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.  Finally, a recent study on stress showed that psychological stress is a risk factor for heart attacks.  It’s important to incorporate positive coping mechanisms for stress such as mindfulness and meditation techniques, and exercise can be a good stress reliever as well.

If you don’t “know your numbers,” make an appointment with your physician.  We at Reside Health are very committed to your health and wellness and have several approaches to assist you in weight and stress management and overall primary care.  Visit us soon!

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