GREENEVILLE, TN – Your heart tells you when you’re in love, hurt, or angry. But it may not tell you when you have heart disease, the No. 1 killer of women in America.
To raise awareness of this deadly disease, Takoma Adventist Hospital is urging its associates – and the public -- to “wear red” on Friday, Feb. 4, as part of the American Heart Association’s national “Go Red For Women” Day.
“Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, claims nearly 500,000 women’s lives each year, nearly twice as many as all forms of cancer,” Dr. Sharon Duke, director of Takoma’s Emergency Center, said. “Cardiovascular disease also claims more women’s lives than the next seven causes of death combined.”
Heart disease and stroke kills one in 2.5 women, compared to one in 30 from breast cancer, she said.
Heart attacks occur when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, often by a blood clot, Duke said. If this clot cuts off the blood flow completely, the part of the heart muscle supplied by that artery begins to die.
Symptoms of a heart attack include:
- Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. May occur with or without chest discomfort.
- Other signs: These may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Meanwhile, stroke is a type of cardiovascular disease, Duke said. “It affects the arteries leading to and within the brain,” she said.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts. “When that occurs, part of the brain can’t get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it starts to die,” Duke said.
When part of the brain dies, the part of the body it controls is affected. “Strokes can cause paralysis, affect language and vision, and many other problems,” Duke said.
Warning signs of stroke include:
· Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
· Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
· Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
· Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
· Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.
Women face six major risk factors for heart disease that can be prevented, controlled or treated with diet, exercise and sometimes medication, Duke said. “These are high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, tobacco use, physical inactivity, obesity or overweight, and diabetes,” she said. “A few simple lifestyle changes will reduce many of the risk factors.”
Duke offers these tips to transform – and possibly save – your life:
· Keep moving – Try not to think of it as exercising. Just keep moving. Stand, instead of sitting. Walk instead of standing. Try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week – even if you have to do it 10 minutes at a time. Use the stairs, instead of an elevator. Housework counts! Wash windows or vacuum the carpet briskly. Take your children to the park and play with them. Don’t just sit and watch.
· Eat healthy -- Eat a balanced diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, cereal and grain products, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry and lean meats. Mix one-half regular soda with one-half diet soda until you get used to the taste of diet soda. Drink lots of water. Garnish with a twist of lemon or lime, and sip slowly. Know your snack triggers and plan ahead. Have a stash of health snacks with you. Don’t eat alone. You’ll be less likely to overeat in front of others.
· Don’t use tobacco -- If you do smoke, stop. Smoking contributes to more than 430,000 deaths a year. About one-fifth of deaths from heart diseases are caused by smoking. Don’t dip or chew, either. It is just as bad as smoking and creates other problems, such as oral cancers.
If you are suffering a heart attack or stroke, call 9-1-1 or seek medical attention immediately. For more information, please call Takoma Hospital’s Emergency Center at 636-2360.