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Matters of a Healthy Heart: What Women Need to Know

(Posted on ChesterCountyMoms.com - February 7, 2013)

Heart MonthFebruary brings thoughts of gathering the kids' Valentine treats, enjoying Superbowl gatherings, and being fed up with the cold weather, but how many of us think about our hearts this time of year? We're taking a time-out this February to inform you of all matters of the heart in honor of Heart Month. The American Heart Association launched its Go Red for Women campaign in 2004 to raise awareness of heart disease - it is not just a man's disease. Read on for a woman's look at caring for your heart.

Signs & Symptoms for Women
We all know the consequences of heart disease and heart attacks can be severe. In fact, research shows that women often fare worse than men after a heart attack. There are many differences emerging in how heart disease affects women versus men.

Be on the look out for...

  • abnormal and significant fatigue
  • sleep disturbance
  • shortness of breath
  • pain or weakness in the back, arms, or jaw

Note that these symptoms don't include the classic chest pain. "When they have chest discomfort, they often describe it differently than men do, calling it indigestion or muscular pain," according to Cardiologist Donna Reed, DO, a partner at Chester County Cardiology Associates and the director of Women's Heart Health Program at The Chester County Hospital.

As women, we do have some protection against heart disease with the production of estrogen. Once menopause hits, we are at a greater risk, and this is why women tend to develop heart disease later in life than men. Age also brings on other varied health issues, making heart disease or heart attacks that much more serious.

Know Your Risk
Having an idea of where your heart health stands is the first step to preventing heart troubles. There are some common factors that contribute to heart disease and heart attacks, so see if you can make some changes to rid yourself of any risk.

Do you have...

  • high blood pressure?
  • high cholesterol?
  • diabetes?
  • family history?
  • an unhealthy diet?

Are you...

  • a smoker?
  • overweight?
  • sedentary?

If you'd like an easy way to identify your risk, take The Chester County Hospital's Heart Tracks Cardiac Risk Assessment. Here, you will answer questions about your health and learn where to go for help to reducing your risk. This free online report is printable and confidential, so you can share it with your doctor to protect your heart.

Pick Up the Phone, Not the Keys
If you or someone you know is experiencing any symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1. Don't be tempted to drive yourself or another person to the hospital. Those who get behind the wheel risk further injury to themselves or others if they would become unconscious. Medical personnel can begin administering prompt care when they arrive - those precious moments can make all the difference. So, what will you do if you think you're having a heart attack? Call 9-1-1 pronto!

Practice Good Eats - On Us!
We can't forget about the importance of eating right to keep your ticker ticking. A diet rich in fibrous vegetables will help keep you full, and, as a bonus, your heart will thank you! Build lunches and dinners with plates half-full of vegetables before adding your other components. Foods full of omega-3 fatty acids are great, too. Fish, nuts and healthy oils will have your heart pumping proudly. Something to avoid, though, is salt. Limit salt in your cooking by adding tasty herbs and spices instead. When eating out, ask for salty sauces on the side so you can control your intake.

Want to have your hand at a heart-healthy meal...for free? All you have to do is "like" The Chester County Hospital's Facebook and follow the "win dinner for two" entry link before February 14, 2013! You could be selected as a winner of a free meal for two at Doc Magrogan's West Chester or Harvest Seasonal Grill - a $100 value. Pretty sweet Valentine treat, huh? Click here to enter!
Be sure to share these tips with all the women in your life. Happy Heart Month, ladies!

Last Updated: 2/7/2013