Love Your Heart: Go Red For Women
Red: the color of love, the color of our hearts. In February we tend to associate hearts and the color red with Valentine’s Day. Why not give yourself a Valentine this month, though? Give the gift of heart health by making a healthy lifestyle a priority.
Heart disease is the leading health threat to women, claiming the life of approximately one woman every 80 seconds. In 2003, the American Heart Association took action against a disease claiming the lives of nearly half a million American women each year – a disease women weren’t paying attention to. The campaign, Go Red For Women, was born. In the past decade, it has turned into a movement to raise awareness, educate women about warning signs and fund cardiovascular research that involves women and helps us understand heart disease specifically in women.
“Heart disease is the leading killer, but here’s the good news: 80 percent of heart attacks and other cardiac events may be prevented with education and lifestyle changes,” says Braden Batkoff, M.D., interventional cardiologist and executive medical director of Providence Spokane Heart Institute.
Heart disease affects the blood vessels and the body’s cardiovascular system. It can take on many forms, such as narrowing of the arteries that can lead to heart attack, congestive heart failure, rhythm disorders that cause the heart to beat too fast or slow or irregularly, and heart valve problems.
“There are many things that can put you at risk. Some things you can control and others you can’t,” says Dr. Batkoff. “Every woman should get to know her own risk factors, including family history. Have a discussion with your healthcare provider and have a plan to address any red flags,” he adds.
Among the risk factors that can be controlled: high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, obesity and overweight, smoking, diabetes and poor diet. Risk factors that cannot be changed are your age, gender and family history.
Family history is significant. It’s the only risk factor that can account for Sara Hoffman’s heart attack in 2015. She was 37 years old and flying from Washington State to Mexico for her destination wedding. “I had burning in my chest, severe jaw pain, and pain in my left arm,” she recalls.
The plane made an emergency landing and Sara was wheeled into the ER, wedding dress in tow. “My poor husband thought he was about to be a widower and we weren’t even married yet,” she says. “The vows ‘in sickness and in health’ really took on a new meaning for us.” Sara received a stent to open up her blocked arteries, and despite the major setback made it to Mexico and was able to walk down the aisle.
“I really have learned about family history and how powerful genetics are,” remarks Sara. “I was healthy, I ran a marathon, I was a vegetarian, I took care of myself, and I thought that counteracted my family history. I really never considered myself to be at risk even knowing that my father had had a heart attack at the age of 36.”
A good understanding of chronic diseases that run in the family can help your doctors prevent heart disease and stroke. Sara hopes her story will encourage others to take action: learning about family history of heart disease and stroke, and scheduling what the American Heart Association calls a Well-Woman Visit.
A Well-Woman Visit is an annual physical and discussion about health that all women should get to help identify serious health concerns before they become life threatening – such as heart disease. Well-Woman Visits will be tailored to age, family history, past health history and need for preventive screenings. Some services – such as checking blood pressure, height and weight, and temperature – will be provided every year; however, other services may only be provided as needed, based on medical and family history.
Whether you have family history or not, the American Heart Association recommends the following lifestyle changes:
Don’t smoke. If you do, get help to quit. The good news is that when you stop smoking, the risk for heart disease and stroke can be cut in half just one year later and continues to decline until it’s as low as a nonsmoker’s risk.
Manage your blood sugar. The American Heart Association’s recommendation for healthy blood glucose is <100 mg/dL. Blood sugar levels that are too high can lead to diabetes and over time damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart. Get your blood pressure under control. A normal high blood pressure is 120/80. One-in-three adults have high blood pressure and yet many people don’t even know they have it.
Lower your cholesterol. The desired level for total cholesterol is less than 200 mg/dL.
Stay active. The benefits of exercising for just 30 minutes a day are plenty, stress reduction and improving cholesterol numbers. Walking is the easiest way to begin exercising.
Lose weight if you need to.
Eat healthy. A diet rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats and whole grains is your first defense against the onset of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease. Limit sodium to less than 1,500 mg a day. For sugar, the American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie allowance come from added sugars. For most American women, this is no more than 100 calories per day (about 6 teaspoons). For men, it’s no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons).
No matter your age, it’s worth the effort to take action to prevent heart disease and improve your health. Go Red this February and take time to love your heart. For more resources to help you get healthier, visit www.GoRedForWomen.org.
JOIN THE GO RED FOR WOMEN MOVEMENT
National Wear Red Day, February 5. Wear red to help raise awareness that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. www.GoRedForWomen.org/wearredday
Spokane Go Red For Women Luncheon, March 9. Join local women at the Spokane Convention Center in supporting the American Heart Association. Sponsored nationally by Macy’s and locally by Providence Health Care. Pre-event ticket sales only. http://SpokaneGoRedLuncheon.heart.org
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