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SATURDAY, Feb. 12, 2022 (HealthDay News) — February is American Heart Month — a great time to remind women of three things they need to know about heart disease.

It’s the leading cause of death for American women, accounting for one in three deaths, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). Although progress has been made to reduce this rate over the past 20 years, improvement in risk factors and mortality rates in women under 50 has been slow.

That’s why the AHA urges women to do three things: Recognize the signs of a heart attack; understand their risk factors for heart disease; and make healthy lifestyle changes to prevent heart disease.

No. 1: Be aware that heart attack symptoms in men and women can differ. Chest pain is the main symptom in both cases, but in women it may not be the only or main symptom, according to Dr. Rekha Mankad, cardiologist and director of the Mayo Clinic Women’s Heart Clinic in Rochester. , Minnesota.

“The chest pain is there, but it can’t overtake you. The pain can be in the jaw, radiating down the back, or up the neck. A woman can be short of breath, have a stomach ache, or break away. sweat,” Mankad said in a Mayo Clinic press release. “Women who have a heart attack can be tired and often have an overwhelming sense of unease – that something is wrong.”

Women often ignore these symptoms because they doubt they might be having a heart attack. A 2019 AHA survey found that only 44% of respondents knew that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women.

No. 2: Know your risk of heart attack and stroke. These include age, high blood pressure, diabetes, a concerning cholesterol profile, and smoking or vaping.

A cholesterol profile high in “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides (fats in the blood) increases the risk of heart disease for both sexes.

Women are more likely than men to have high blood pressure as they age, so they should watch for changes, as high blood pressure could put increased pressure on the heart, arteries and kidneys. It also increases the risk of stroke. Women who have diabetes or who smoke are at higher risk of heart disease than men who have it.

It is also important for women to pay attention to complications such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure during pregnancy, or premature delivery, as these can increase the risk of heart disease later in life.

Each of these risk factors should be shared and discussed with a medical professional, Mankad said.

No. 3: Reduce your risk. To help prevent heart disease, take steps to manage blood pressure, control cholesterol, lower blood sugar, engage in daily physical activity, eat a healthy diet, lose weight, and quit smoking.

“Quitting smoking or quitting vaping is one of the best things you can do for your heart,” Mankad said.

“The most lasting changes often start small,” she added. “As little as 10 minutes of walking or being active each day can improve mood and create a healthy habit to build on. Replacing a processed food with a more nutritious whole grain, fruit or vegetable, and choosing Olive oil rather than hydrogenated oils all have a positive impact on heart health over time.

More information

The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to a healthy heart.

SOURCE: Mayo Clinic, press release, February 1, 2022

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