Let’s own our heart health | Nonprofit Spotlight: American Heart Association
You need to know
Our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are at risk. Heart disease does not discriminate. It affects women from all age groups, ethnicities, family histories and walks of life. That’s why it’s so important for us to lead by example and make the time to “Know Your Numbers.” It’s knowledge that could save our lives.
Cardiovascular diseases, which includes heart diseases, stroke and other vascular diseases, kill about one woman every 80 seconds. That’s about 1,000 women’s deaths each day! The good news is that 80 percent of cardiac events in women may be prevented if they make the right choices for their hearts, involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking.
A movement that starts with you
In 1997, the American Heart Association, the largest voluntary health organization fighting heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases, began a movement when it launched its groundbreaking “Take Wellness To Heart” awareness campaign created by women for women. In February 2004, the association launched Go Red For Women — extending the effort that began in 1997 — with a primary goal to educate women that heart disease is their leading cause of death. That’s a fact most women still do not take to heart.
For 13 years, the Go Red For Women movement has challenged women to know their risk for heart disease and take action to reduce their personal risk. And, the movement plays a leading role in providing women with the tools they need to lead heart-healthy lives.
So, what can you do to lead a heart-healthier life? Understand your risk factors. There are some you can control like blood pressure, smoking, cholesterol, lack of regular physical activity, and some you can’t control like age, gender, and family history.
That’s why it is important to Know Your Numbers. Five numbers can change your life: Total Cholesterol, HDL (good) Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI). Learn your Family History and discuss all risk factors with your healthcare provider.
You can also go red — literally. Part of Go Red For Women includes National Wear Day, which occurs the first Friday in February each year — Feb. 3 this year. On this day, the American Heart Association encourages women (and men!) everywhere to wear red, whether a red dress, red T-shirt or red lipstick. Show the world you passionately support Go Red For Women, the movement to improve women’s heart health and save lives. Here in Northern Nevada, local sites such as the Reno Arch will be illuminated red throughout February.
Join the movement at GoRedForWomen.org. Being part of the movement allows you to connect with women nationwide who share your passion to prevent heart disease. You can also help advocate for more women-related research and education. It’s time to Go Red for the 1,000 women who die from heart disease each day.
Take charge of your health
It’s not enough to be aware of the risk factors associated with heart disease. Women must take action to prevent it. Your heart depends on it.
Here are some ways you can take care of your heart:
Get regular checkups.
Know your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations for diet and exercise.
Take prescribed medications as directed.
If you smoke, quit now.
Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day.
Eat a heart-healthy diet, including fruits and vegetables, whole-grain foods and fish.
Limit food high in saturated fats and dietary cholesterol.
For average Americans, limit your salt intake to less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
If you drink alcoholic beverages, drink in moderation: an average of no more than one drink a day for non-pregnant women.
Make small choices such as the stairs instead of the elevator or baked instead of fried. These choices can add up to big results when it comes to living a longer, healthier life.
Finally, don’t ignore the warning signs. Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, but most of them start slowly, with mild pain or discomfort. Often the people affected aren’t sure what’s wrong and wait too long before getting help.
Common symptoms women may experience when having a cardiac event include:
Uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing or pain in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes
Pain spreading to the shoulders, neck or arms. The pain may be mild to intense. It may feel like pressure, tightness, burning, or heavy weight. It may be located in the chest, upper abdomen, neck, jaw, or inside the arms or shoulders
Chest discomfort with lightheadedness, fainting, sweating, nausea or shortness of breath
Anxiety, nervousness and/or cold, sweaty skin
Paleness or pallor
Increased or irregular heart rate
Feeling of impending doom
In addition to taking charge of your health, you can get involved locally. The American Heart Association Northern Nevada Division needs your help. Volunteer your time, donate your dollars or participate in an event. Please call (775) 322-7065 or visit us on Facebook at facebook.com/northernnevada or Twitter @AHA_ASANNevada.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.