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Heart Disease: Fighting Back

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States and during American Heart Month our focus is on fighting back and helping save women’s lives. Sometimes thought of as a "man's disease," approximately the same number of women and men die of heart disease each year in the United States. You can still be at risk for heart disease even without symptoms. The reality is that almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease did not have previous symptoms.

Risk factors that increase chances of heart disease include:

• Alcohol
• Blood Cholesterol Levels
• Diabetes
• Diet
• Heredity
• Obesity
• Physical Activity
• Tobacco Use

You can take steps to lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack by living a healthy lifestyle. Here’s how:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and choose healthy meal and snack options.
  • Eat foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber to help prevent high blood cholesterol.
  • Limit salt or sodium in your diet to help lower your blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight; being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease.
  • Exercise regularly; physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Don't smoke; cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit.
  • Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure.

Know the symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort (can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain) in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
  • Shortness of breath. Often occurs with chest discomfort, but also can occur before chest discomfort.
  • Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.

If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.

The American Heart Association (AHA) is a national voluntary health agency to help reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke. To learn more about heart disease and join the fight against the number 1 killer of women visit the AHA’s website at www.heart.org.

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