Recently I received an email about the Go Red for Women Campaign from the American Heart Association. Reading through the information, I was shocked to discover that more women die from heart disease (heart attacks, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases) than the next FIVE leading causes of death combined, including breast cancer. This in an age where early intervention is the difference between life and death.
A little less than 5 years ago, at the age of 42, I was diagnosed with hypertension, high cholesterol levels, and high triglycerides. My doctor prescribed an anti-hypertensive and urged me to lose weight. Fortunately my hypertension responded to the medication, which told me at the time that really I didn't need to lose weight because my high blood pressure was being managed. Every three months I would reluctantly head back to her office for my follow-up exam only to hear the pleas for me get my weight down and work in some physical activity.
It took 12 months, and no longer able being to wear my favorite pants, for me to hear my own wake-up call. I am a firm believer that education is crucial to understanding how to transform one's life. I started reading everything I could about how to change the path that I was on. As I researched this topic, I uncovered some shocking information.
So why is heart disease so deadly for women?
For one thing, women’s symptoms can be quite different from a man's. We all have seen the medical drama where a man is depicted with classic symptoms of a heart attack--complaints of chest pains, pain in the jaw, pain radiating down the left arm, shortness of breath and breaking out in a cold sweat--only to be rushed to the ER to be saved.
The same CANNOT be said for women. Their symptoms are less characteristic in nature and many of the symptoms can be related to many other medical conditions.
Because these warning signs are not the classic heart attack symptoms many of us have come to know, many health care providers fail to diagnose a heart attack or cardiovascular disease in woman who presents to the ER with these signs. Hopefully, with all the new advances in women’s health issues this trend is changing.
So what can we, as women, do to prevent developing cardiovascular disease?