When was the last time you thought about your heart health?
I’m barely 40, have a new baby and kids in third and sixth grades and my biggest health concerns revolve around breastfeeding, getting enough sleep and finding gluten free foods that aren’t chock full of sugar. But on the first Friday of every February, I wear red to raise awareness of an issue affecting women of all ages: heart disease.
February 2nd, 2018 is National Wear Red Day, created in 2003 by the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to raise awareness about heart disease and heart health.
HEART DISEASE FACTS
Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? It kills more women than all cancers combined. Previously considered a “man’s disease,” heart disease claims the lives of nearly 500,000 American women each year and 1 in 3 women die of heart disease and stroke each year. The good news? 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action which is why advocacy and awareness are so important.
I’ve read plenty of stories about women who have survived heart attacks and strokes and went on to get their health in order and decrease their risk. Not all of them are middle age or seniors, either. While risk factors include chronic stress, smoking, obesity, diabetes and taking birth control pills, two pregnancy-related conditions have also been linked to greater coronary risk in later years–pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes. Additional risk factors now emerging for women include migraines with aura and inflammatory diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Of course it’s best to strive to prevent heart disease, which is a goal of National Wear Red Day–to inspire women to be proactive with their health, even in their twenties and thirties.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables, getting regular aerobic exercise (hello, stroller workouts!), spending time with friends and getting a good night’s sleep (six to eight hours) all decrease your risk factors. You’re also encouraged to know your numbers. These include total Cholesterol, HDL (good) Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI). Knowing these numbers can help you and your healthcare provider determine your risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.
It’s also important as a woman to know that heart attacks happen differently for women. Rather than crushing chest pain, women in the throes of a heart attack (especially younger women) more often experience discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back or abdomen, dizziness, nausea, right arm pain, shortness of breath, and sweating or unusual fatigue.
Obviously this is an important issue for women. So what to do on National Wear Red Day? Wear red, of course! And use the hash tag #goredwearred when you do. Go Red For Women is also on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter if you want to get involved. Look for me in my red! You can see all the information about National Wear Red Day here.