For women—and seniors in particular—the risk of heart problems is often overlooked. February is American Heart Month, and it is an important reminder to take steps toward reducing our risk of heart disease.
Anna has been a Seniors At Home client for several years. In November she was alone when she had a heart attack, but she didn’t even realize it was happening. When she told our visiting caregiver how she was feeling, he recognized the signs and got her the medical attention she needed immediately.
As many of us typically associate heart disease with men, it may come as a surprise to learn that more women than men die of heart disease each year. In fact, heart disease affects more than 6 million American women and is responsible for one in three deaths in women annually. Unfortunately, Anna is not the only Seniors At Home client with heart disease.
How can women prevent heart disease?
Regardless of your age, you can take important steps to keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are five ways that women (and men!) can increase cardiovascular health:
- Stay active: By exercising regularly you can help lower your blood pressure, increase your energy levels and keep your heart and bones strong. Professionals say that 30-60 minutes, five days a week is enough exercise to lower your risk of heart disease. (Remember to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program.) If you’re looking for exercise inspiration check out Go Red for Women’s Cardio and Strength Training Tips for Seniors.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Enjoying a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, fiber and lean proteins, as well as low in saturated fats, sugars and salt, is key to keeping your heart strong and maintaining a healthy weight. To start stocking your fridge with the right foods, A Place for Mom’s Senior Living blog has some pointers in their Heart Healthy Shopping Tips for Seniors.
- Quit smoking: Smoking has an even greater correlation to heart disease for women than it does in men. It can be very difficult to quit smoking at any age but it is never too late.
- Minimize stress: Though it may not be directly linked to heart disease, chronic stress can cause heart rate and blood pressure to rise, damage the artery walls and weaken the immune system. There are many ways you can reduce stress, such as talking and connecting with a loved one, meditating, exercising, or playing with a pet to create a more peaceful mind and a healthy body.
- Consult with your doctor: If you have questions or concerns about heart disease or how to live a heart healthy lifestyle, seek advice from your cardiologist or primary caregiver. Your heart is the most important muscle in your body, so it is vital to take care of it!
Know the signs of heart attack in women:
We are all familiar with the image of a man clutching his chest with a sudden onset of pain, pressure and difficulty breathing. Yet the symptoms of a heart attack are often different for women and maybe harder to spot. Educate yourself and become aware of the differing symptoms of heart distress.
Women DO usually experience some pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest when experiencing a heart attack – but it is not always the severe, crushing chest pain we generally associate with heart attacks in men.
Women are also more likely than men to experience these symptoms during heart attack:
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort
- Shortness of breath
- Right arm pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Unusual fatigue
If you think you or someone you know is having a heart attack, call 911 immediately. The sooner medical treatment begins the better the outcome.
Home care can help
If you or a loved one is suffering from heart disease or any other health condition that makes everyday tasks more difficult, find out more about our Home Care services. Whether you are planning for the future, dealing with a chronic illness like heart disease or just need a little support to get through the day, Seniors At Home is here to help.
For a free consultation, or if you have any questions about how Seniors At Home can help you or a family member with heart disease, call 415-449-3777 today.