10 ways to prevent an early heart attack

heart-stroke

Every year in North America, heart disease and stroke kill more women -- yes, even healthy, young women like you -- than any other cause.

Why? Partly because our modern lifestyles have increased our risk factors. Partly because we still think of heart disease as a man's issue. When we have symptoms of heart attack and stroke, we are less likely to recognize them and seek help. This means you are more likely to die from a heart attack than your husband. 

[Tweet "Heart attack will kill more women than any other cause this year. Don't be a statistic."]

A 2008 study of young women (average age: 48) who had had heart attacks found many dismissed early symptoms. The women were interviewed within a week of leaving the hospital. Here are the obstacles the women had in recognizing their symptoms:

  • They thought they were too young to be having a heart attack.
  • They had atypical symptoms that lasted for more than a day.
  • They chalked up their symptoms to other conditions, not to a heart attack.

Just think... how many times since becoming a mother have you dismissed your own aches, pains, symptoms, and complaints. Do the following statements sound familiar?

"I don't want to bother the doctor."

"If it lasts a few more days I'll think about seeing someone."

"It's probably nothing."

When the day comes that it really IS something, it might be too late.

know your symptoms

A woman can suffer a heart attack without chest pain. If you experience several of the following symptoms, or any chest pain or discomfort (especially if accompanied by any of the other symptoms), please call 9-1-1:

  • Chest pain or discomfort. Women may experience chest pain differently from men; it may feel like a squeezing or fullness, and the pain can be anywhere in the chest, not just on the left side.
  • Pain in your arm(s), back, neck, or jaw. This type of pain is more common in women than in men. It may confuse women who expect their pain to be focused on their chest and left arm, not their back or jaw. The pain can be gradual or sudden, and it may wax and wane before becoming intense. If you're asleep, it may wake you up.
  • Stomach pain. Sometimes people mistake stomach pain that signals a heart attack with heartburn, the flu, or a stomach ulcer. The extreme might be severe abdominal pressure, "as if an elephant were sitting on your stomach."
  • Shortness of breath, nausea, or lightheadedness. If you're having trouble breathing for no apparent reason, you could be having a heart attack, especially if you're also having other symptoms. Feel like you just ran a marathon but you're on the couch? Not normal.
  • Sweating. Breaking out in a nervous, cold sweat is common among women who are having a heart attack. It will feel more like stress-related sweating than perspiration from exercising or spending time outside in the heat.
  • Fatigue. Some women who have heart attacks feel extremely tired, even if they've been sitting still for a while or haven't moved much. Patients describe fatigue in their chests that makes them feel too tired even for regular, everyday activities.

[Tweet "You could have a heart attack & never even have chest pain. Know your symptoms!"]

Here's a story that might hit home...

"I was four days post-partum when I experienced a nagging pain in my left arm, shoulder, neck and breast. I took a hot shower to relax my muscles as I attributed the pain to childbirth. The next day that pain came back with vengeance and I experienced the full gamut of symptoms - crushing sub-sternal chest pain, left arm numbness, tingling, pain in my left arm. I broke out sweating, vomiting. Classic male symptoms of a heart attack. The only problem, I wasn't a middle-aged white male.

I called 911 and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance only to be told that I couldn't possibly be having a heart attack. I was observed and released. I persisted that it was my heart and continued to seek treatment for a week before anyone listened.

After a seven day heart attack, I was back in the ER again when the same cardiologist said, "Young lady, I'm glad you were persistent. You are having a heart attack and now we have to transfer you downtown to save your life."

 reduce your risk (it's about more than just staying fit)

If you’d rather live out your golden years traveling, drinking fine wines and generally not being bedridden, read on...

I present to you 10 ways to heart your heart (you might even lose a few pounds in the process).

[Tweet "Working out is not enough! 10 ways to prevent an early heart attack or stroke."]