When it comes to women’s health, it’s a fact that breast cancer gets far more attention than heart disease. Yet, five times as many women die from heart disease as breast cancer each year. Because heart disease has historically been considered a “man’s disease,” many women lack an awareness of their potential risk.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke, kills approximately 500,000 women in the United States each year. This number exceeds the next seven causes of death combined, including all cancers. Although these statistics are alarming, there is some good news, too. The death rate from heart disease has decreased by 30 percent in the United States since 1998. This drop is due in large part to greater awareness and healthcare providers’ increasing focus on cardiac screening as part of primary care for women.
Although 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for developing heart disease, 80 percent of current cases are preventable. There are many ways you can lower your risk. And, by doing so, you can improve your overall health and feel great, too! The following are a few simple strategies to help you proactively lower your risk of a cardiac event.
While going to the gym or participating in a regular exercise class is a great way to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, there are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. It can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, dancing or riding your bike. The key is to aim for some amount of physical activity 30 minutes per day.
Heart disease is more common in women who experience chronic stress. Although it’s impossible to remove all sources of daily stress, there are ways to manage your stress, including limiting exposure to triggers that bring on stressful feelings. For example, if you’re feeling short on time, you may want to re-prioritize your schedule. Seeking the support of a trusted friend, family member or counselor can provide comfort if you’re anxious about a relationship or situation. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of changing your perspective to better cope with daily stressful events.
In addition, there are good ways to relieve your stress. Exercise and yoga are natural remedies for anxiety and stress that release powerful endorphins in the brain which reduce pain and lift your mood. Making time to connect with people around you and spending time outside can also offer significant mood-boosting benefits.
Your primary healthcare provider should be someone you trust and can talk to without embarrassment or anxiety. When it comes to your heart, your doctor can be a primary source of information and support to ensure you’re doing all you can to protect your health.
“I recommend choosing a doctor who you can relate to like a trusted confidant or friend,” says Dr. Stacey Rosen, Vice President, Women’s Health, Katz Institute for Women’s Health. “By developing a rapport, you can gain the insights and motivation you need to lower your risk of developing heart disease.”
Hypertension, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar are all easy to diagnose but can often get overlooked in women who don’t obtain regular checkups. Learning your numbers is the first step in controlling heart disease before symptoms develop.
Do you want to learn more about women’s heart health prevention? At Katz Institute for Women’s Health, we’re here to answer your questions. Call the Katz Institute for Women’s Health Resource Center at 855-850-5494 to speak to a women’s health specialist.