By Dr. Sharan Mahal
Did you know that like in men, Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) is the number one killer of women in the United States? Each year, more women die of heart disease than all forms of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and accidents combined. Sadly, only a small percentage of women are even aware of this startling fact.
Saturday, September 29, 2012, is World Heart Day, which was established in 2000 by the World Heart Federation to educate people on the risk factors associated with CVD and the preventative measures they can take to reduce their risk. This year, World Heart Day is focusing on raising awareness among women and children, as many women are unaware of the potential risk CVD poses to them and their children. Celebrate World Heart Day by educating yourself on some easy steps you can take to protect you and your loved ones from developing CVD.
- Exercise. Studies show that at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day may help prevent heart disease. You would be surprised how your daily activities, like walking the dog, parking further back in the parking lot, or taking the stairs, can easily add up to 30 minutes. Download an app on your phone or purchase a pedometer to help track your progress throughout the day.
- Don’t be scared of fats. “Good” fats that is. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, like omega-3s EPA and DHA, can actually reduce your risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. Fish (not farm raised) is a great source of omega-3s, as well as flaxseed oil, walnuts, cloves, oregano, mustard seeds, green leafy vegetables, strawberries and squash.
- Stop smoking. Tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors for developing CVD. Although quitting is not easy, you will start reaping the benefits immediately once you do. No matter how long or frequently you’ve smoked, your risk of developing heart disease drops significantly within one year of quitting.
- Get checked by your doctor. Getting screened regularly for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and diabetes can help you understand your individual risks and take appropriate action.
- Try a low-glycemic diet. Because low-glycemic foods produce only small fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels, they can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid diabetes, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. To make your next snack heart healthy, try this low-glycemic recipe: toasted whole wheat pita with hummus.
- Learn to identify the symptoms. Oftentimes, women tend not to notice the typical chest pain symptoms that men experience from heart disease. Therefore, women need to be aware of atypical symptoms, like excessive fatigue, breathlessness, increased sweating and unexplained indigestion, and be able to identify them as possible cardiac symptoms requiring medical attention.
Sharan Mahal, M.D., F.A.C.C., is a board-certified cardiologist at Somerset Medical Center.