February is the month of the heart, in more ways than you might think. Matters of the heart are celebrated on Valentine’s Day, but also throughout the month because it’s American Heart Month. So it’s a good time to talk to your medical provider about your blood pressure and cholesterol so you determine your risk for developing heart disease. Nationally, heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women. In Idaho, it is the second leading cause of death for women, after cancer, and the leading cause of death for men.
Heart disease, as we all know, can lead to heart attack. Can you remind us about the symptoms of a heart attack?
Not everyone who has a heart attack will have all of these signs. In fact, men and women often have different symptoms. The most common signs of a heart attack include chest pain or discomfort, pain or discomfort in the upper body, trouble breathing, feeling sick to your stomach or vomiting, stomach ache or heartburn, feeling light-headed or unusually tired, and breaking out in a cold sweat. If you have any of these symptoms and think you might be having a heart attack, call 911 immediately and get to a hospital.
You said symptoms can be different for women. How so?
Just like men, the most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are more likely to have other symptoms, including shortness of breath, nausea and vomiting, and back or jaw pain. It’s important to note that women who have a heart attack may not have experienced previous symptoms.
If heart disease runs in your family, what can you do to reduce your risk?
Anyone with a family history of heart disease has a higher risk for developing it, but there are several things you can do to counteract it. If you smoke, quitting smoking is the No. 1 thing you can do to reduce your risk for heart disease. You can also make sure to exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and eat a healthy diet by keeping portion sizes down and incorporating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish and nuts into your diet.
What’s the best way to know your risk?
The best way to understand your risk is through regular medical checkups, where you’ll get your cholesterol and blood pressure checked and you can develop a heart health plan with your doctor. Early detection is very important when it comes to preventing and treating heart disease. When you know your risk, you can start making healthy changes to your lifestyle to reduce it.
(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. This is an edited transcript of the segment from Feb. 19.)