(CARLSBAD, CA) - When you think about a heart attack, what enters your mind? If you envision a middle-aged man clutching his chest, you’re missing half of the picture. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American women, and more than eight million American women are currently living with some form of cardiac condition. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians reports that more women over age 65 die of heart disease than from all cancers combined.
Yet, countless women are oblivious to the dangers of heart disease. An American Heart Association study showed that only 13 percent of American women believe heart disease is a real health threat, and only 20 percent of doctors are aware that heart disease kills more women than men each year. When women rush to the emergency room with heart-related symptoms, they wait an average of 23 minutes longer than men with similar concerns. These unfortunate realities may explain why women are less likely to survive heart attacks than men.
Why do doctors overlook women when they exhibit symptoms of heart-related illnesses? Unfortunately, most research and education has focused on warning signs typically experienced by men. The warning signs for women are distinctly different. Men often report physical exertion prior to heart attack symptoms, whereas women report emotional stress. Men tend to complain of classic chest pains, but women often have pain in other places.
Common symptoms reported by women are pain or discomfort in upper body areas, such as the arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Women also report feelings of indigestion, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, shortness of breath, cold sweats, and lightheadedness. Unfortunately, many women who experience these symptoms neglect to visit the emergency room or their primary care doctor altogether. What they don’t know is that a minor heart attack is taking place, and it often results in dire health consequences months later.
There are proactive steps that women of all ages can take to lower the risk of heart disease and related illnesses.
Don’t smoke – More than one-half of heart attacks among women under the age of 50 are related to smoking. Fortunately, women who quit smoking see their risk of heart disease drop dramatically after just one year, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Control cholesterol levels – The American Heart Association recommends that women maintain a total cholesterol level below 200mg/dL, with HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels at 50mg/dL or higher.
Monitor blood pressure –Blood pressure should be at or below 120/80 mmHg. Anything higher than this figure is a cause for action.
Lower your waist circumference – Numerous researchers are proclaiming that waist circumference is a better indicator of heart-related problems than overall weight or body mass index. Women should seek to maintain a waist circumference of 35 inches or less.
Exercise regularly – Regular exercise to the tune of 30-60 minutes on most days of the week is directly linked to lower risk of heart disease. Jazzercise CEO Judi Sheppard Missett suggests that women find an activity they enjoy, so that they are more likely to stick with their exercise program.
The days of being in the dark about heart disease are over. Women cannot afford to be capricious about heart-related symptoms and concerns. By taking proactive steps and learning the key warning signs, women can empower themselves towards healthy hearts.
Jazzercise, created by Judi Sheppard Missett, is the world's leading dance-fitness program with more than 7,500 instructors teaching 32,000 classes weekly in the U.S. and around the globe. Since 1969, millions of people of all ages and fitness levels have reaped the benefits of this comprehensive program, designed to enhance cardiovascular endurance, strength, and flexibility. For more information on Jazzercise go to jazzercise.com or call (800)FIT-IS-IT or (760)476-1750.