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Five tips for women's heart health

Heart disease in the number one killer of women in the United States. Learn these five tips on how to keep your heart healthy.

January 30, 2023

Heart disease continues to be the No. 1 killer of women in the United States. According to the CDC, heart disease is responsible for 1 out of every 5 deaths in women. However, “What is more concerning is that less than half of America’s women understand the risk that heart disease poses to their health,” explains Jennifer Jarvie, a cardiologist with Denver Heart at Swedish Medical Center. “The good news is that this ‘greatest threat to women’s health’ is not only treatable when caught early, it also can be preventable.”

Dr. Jarvie, who has specialized training and clinical emphasis on women’s cardiovascular health, is sharing five tips she believes women need to take to heart (literally!) to help change these statistics.

#1 - Educate yourself

Symptoms of a heart attack in a woman can look different than those of a man. It’s important for women to understand all the symptoms of a heart attack so they can receive treatment promptly. These symptoms can include:

  • Pressure, squeezing, pain, fullness in center of chest. This discomfort can come in waves — lasting for a few minutes, going away and then returning.
  • Pain in stomach, jaw, neck, back and one or more arms.
  • Shortness of breath, cold sweat, nausea, unexplained or unexpected fatigue, dizziness

“While most women will experience chest discomfort during a heart attack, women are more likely than men to experience symptoms other than chest pain — such as dizziness, nausea/vomiting, shortness of breath, or just overall feeling unwell,” Dr. Jarvie clarifies. “Unfortunately, studies have shown that women wait longer — often days longer — than men to seek care for heart attack symptoms. I encourage all women: when in doubt, get it checked out.”

#2 - Spend time with family and friends

Many studies have shown a positive relationship between social wellness and physical wellness. Socializing helps mitigate stress and reduce depression — both of which are risk factors for a cardiac event. Even laughter has been shown to protect the heart by allowing blood vessels to relax and expand. Dr. Jarvie encourages women to spend time with others through physical activity, as well. Having an accountability partner can make exercise — such as walking, yoga or racquet sports — more fun and increase its impact on health.

#3 - Prevenative care is lifesaving care

Establishing a relationship with a primary care provider is a great way for women to take charge of their health. With regular visits to your doctor, concerns can be addressed before they become a problem. A primary care doctor can monitor blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, blood pressure and weight, all of which are factors in heart health. “Together, you can develop a plan to manage these risk factors, lowering them through lifestyle changes, medications or other proactive treatments,” Dr. Jarvie encourages. “Know your numbers and take ownership for your health.”

#4 - Promote gender-sensitive CPR training

The American Heart Association has publicized that women are less likely to receive bystander CPR than men. Experts have found that rescuers often are afraid of being accused of inappropriate touching, sexual assault or injuring the victim if it is a woman. Check out and share resources online about hands — only CPR and proper techniques for helping others suffering from a life-threatening event.

#5 - Adhere to a healthy diet and lifestyle

The all-too-common American fast-food diet can be detrimental to the health of your heart. It is important to limit food items that are high in salt (sodium), trans fat and sugar. Instead, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, enjoy whole grains and drink plenty of water. “If you smoke, quit smoking — help is available through the Colorado Quit Line,” Dr. Jarvie implores. “And do a little bit of exercise every day — even a walk around the block for 20 minutes can make a big difference for your health.” Dr. Jarvie also suggests limiting alcoholic beverages and getting adequate rest to round out a healthy lifestyle.

There are your five tips for women's heart health!

Heart disease can affect women of every age, which is why it is important for everyone to be active in their health. “By just learning about your heart and the steps you can take to support a healthy lifestyle, we can begin to change the trend, reduce the threat and save more lives,” Dr. Jarvie explains.

Learn more about heart health resources at Swedish Medical Center.

January 30, 2023

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