The Top Five Ways for Women to Prevent Heart Disease

By Prerana Manohar, MD

Mercy Health Physician Partners Cardiovascular

The No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States is heart disease, and nearly the same number of men and women die of heart disease each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.2 Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States.”

The good news is that with today’s technology, innovative procedures, medications and expert training of specialists, people have access to high quality care for dealing with heart disease. However, disease prevention is always the preferred course of action, and the sooner the better.

If you are a woman who tends to put the needs of your loved ones first — even when it comes to establishing healthy routines — please remember that if we women do not have good health ourselves, we will not be able to care for others.



Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

More often in women, heart disease presents with atypical symptoms. Examples of symptoms we often see in women follow:

  • Chest and/or arm pain
  • Jaw discomfort or toothache
  • Ear discomfort
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Indigestion
  • A flu you can’t shake

Any person could have these symptoms, but if you have them and cannot identify a good reason for them, you might want to speak with your primary care provider (PCP) about heart disease.

Know Your Numbers

Talk with your PCP about your key numbers to maximize your health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Specifically, you should know your:

  • BMI (body mass index)
  • Cholesterol and the breakdown of its components, including:
    • Total Cholesterol
    • LDL (low-density lipoproteins)
    • HDL (high-density lipoproteins)
    • Triglycerides
  • Fasting glucose or hemoglobin A1c
  • Top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers of your blood pressure

If you are a smoker, talk with your provider about your smoking and programs that might help you to quit. Even if you are not ready to quit, a conversation about the options is a good start.

Manage Your Stress

We know that about 85 percent of heart disease is preventable, and the number one recommendation I make to patients in order to prevent heart disease is to reduce their stress. If you don’t manage it, your stress might manage you.

Everyone has stress, and there are no right or wrong ways to reduce stress. It’s a matter of finding what method works best for you when it comes to relaxing and emptying your mind of worries. Here are some examples of stress-reducing activities you may want to incorporate into your daily schedule:

  • Take time to pray or meditate.
  • Take a walk in nature.
  • Listen to soothing music.

Live Mindfully

Listen to your body. You know your body best, so pay attention to how you are feeling and what it is telling you.

  • Keep moving, whether that involves a walk during lunch or after work, working out at a fitness center or parking in the farthest parking spot in a lot near your destination. There are endless ways to keep moving during your day.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet that limits fats, salt, sugar and preservatives.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 911.

Both men and women tend to hesitate to call for help when they think they are having a heart attack. We know that there is no substitute for immediate medical care when it comes to a heart attack. Don’t wait. Make that call.

So in this new year, I challenge women to make one heart-healthy gift to themselves each month. Make your gift simple, such as eating only one cookie each week instead of two or skipping that sugary drink at the coffee shop. You could also add something special, such as a massage to your monthly routine. By the end of the year you will have given yourself 12 presents and begun practices to keep yourself strong and healthy.

This article was written by Cardiologist Prerana Manohar, MD

Mercy Health Physician Partners Cardiovascular

1000 E Paris Ave SE # 200, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Telephone: 616.685.3450

Learn more about Dr. Manohar

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