Heart disease is the leading cause of deaths in American women. It causes 1 in 3 deaths among women each year — more than all cancers combined. But don’t worry, the more you know about heart disease, the better chance you have of beating it.
According to American Heart Association, 90% of people may have one or more risk factors for heart disease in their lives, but 80% of cardiovascular diseases are preventable. In order to prevent heart disease, every woman should know the following six things:
1. Get annual checkups
An annual checkup is essential, as it can assess your heart-health risk. If there is a risk factor, your doctor will take immediate action and set a treatment plan for you.
Before a checkup, you should be prepared to discuss your family history of heart disease or other concerns. "You go to your accountant at tax time, and you don't show up empty-handed...You should not be passive. You should have a conversation," said Dr. Jennifer Mieres.
Besides, you should know your key health numbers, such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels:
Normal blood pressure level: less than 120/80 mmHg
Normal total cholesterol level: less than 200 mg/dL
Normal blood sugar level after not eating for at least eight hours: less than 100 mg/dL
2. Know the symptoms of a heart attack
Heart attack symptoms of women are similar to those of men, including:
Shortness of breath
But women may also experience other symptoms, including:
A fullness in the stomach
Back pain, usually on the left side
3. Tell your doctor about pregnancy complication
You should tell your doctor if you had a pregnancy complication as doctors have found that heart disease may be linked to pregnancy-related complications. Diabetes and hypertension during pregnancy as well as early delivery can lead to increased cardiovascular disease risk.
4. Get enough sleep
Studies have found that lack of sleep (less than 6 or 7 hours a night) can lead to high blood pressure, make it difficult to lose weight and thus bring you higher heart attack risk.
5. Reduce stress
Chronic stress can lead to behaviors and factors that may impact heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity and overeating.
In order to reduce stress, you can eat healthy foods, exercise and get plenty of sleep. You can also talk to your friend, parent, doctor or counselor about your stress.
6. Find a health partner
A health partner can be a health care provider who can give you a customized treatment plan that fits your health condition. A health partner can also be a friend, family member or co-worker who can make you keep physically active and stick to a healthy diet.
"It's OK if you fall off the wagon. You have that person to help you get back on track," said Mieres. "There is strength in numbers."