"I consider myself to be relatively healthy, and I exercise for about 90 minutes every morning. I started having pain in my chest and face when I exercised, so I went to the doctor. I never thought that the pain in my face could be related to my heart, so I was shocked when the tests showed that I had had a heart attack. I thought I was too young to have heart problems. But my father died of a heart attack when he was only 38. My doctor told me that women with a father or brother who got heart disease before age 55 are more likely to develop heart disease. After my second heart attack, I knew that I needed to help get the message out. Women need to know that heart disease is their biggest health threat."
Heart disease is the number one killer of American women. Heart disease is a group of diseases of the heart and the blood vessel system in the heart. Coronary heart disease, the most common type, affects the blood vessels of the heart. It can cause angina or a heart attack. Angina is a pain in the chest that happens when the heart does not get enough blood. It may feel like a pressing or squeezing pain, often in the chest, but sometimes in the shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back. Having angina means you're more likely to have a heart attack. A heart attack happens when a clot mostly or completely blocks blood flow to the heart muscle.
Signs of a heart attack:
Chest discomfort — pressure, squeezing, or pain
Shortness of breath
Discomfort in the upper body — arms, shoulder, neck, back
Women can also have less common symptoms, including:
Indigestion (upset stomach)
Anxiety (feeling uneasy or worried)
If you think you are having a heart attack, you must act quickly to prevent disability or death. Wait no more than a few minutes — five at most — before calling 911.
African-American women are more likely to die from heart disease than women of other races. Diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, lack of exercise, and smoking are among the factors that put women at risk for heart disease. Studies have shown that African-Americans don't get the same care for heart disease as whites because they don't get the same tests and treatments. You have the power to fight heart disease! Read on for some tips to keep your heart healthy.
Don't smoke. If you smoke, try to quit. For help along the way, check out our Quitting Smoking section.
Keep a healthy weight.
Make physical activity a habit. Health benefits are gained by doing the following each week:
2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or
1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or
A combination of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity and
Muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week
Eat heart-healthy foods. Eat whole-grain foods, vegetables, and fruit. Choose lean meats and low-fat cheese and dairy products. Limit foods that have lots of saturated fat, like butter, whole milk, baked goods, ice cream, fatty meats, and cheese.
Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL, and triglycerides) and blood glucose (sugar). Follow your doctor's orders to keep your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels under control.