American Heart Month

For those of you that participated in the poll asking whether or not you have a family member that has had a heart attack, thank you! Although the results were close, I am happy to report that 57% said no to this question. I was pleasantly surprised by these results!

While none of us really wants to think about our risk of heart disease, it is something we should confront head-on since it is the #1 killer of both men and women. Gender is one of the 9 risk factors outlined by the American Heart Association.

Personally, I don’t see gender as a risk factor as heart disease is not gender-biased. That said, here are two things to be aware of when it comes to heart disease and gender.

First, a lot of the research pertaining to heart disease has been done with men. This TED video with Dr. Noel Bairey Merz provides some history and important information regarding gender and heart disease. She says one of the reasons we don’t realize heart disease and the impact it has is because it kills 50% of the women it strikes the first time. She is part of the Fight the Lady Killer initiative with Barbra Streisand to help bring awareness and focus more research on women’s heart disease. See this PDF for The Facts on Women and Heart Disease.

The other is that the symptoms of a heart attack may be different for a woman than a man. The TED video above speaks to this. This American Heart Association video called “Just a Little Heart Attack” portrays what a woman having a heart attack may look like. The symptoms may be chest pain, upper back or neck pain, shortness of breath, or even flu-like.

A friend of mine recently told me about a co-worker several years ago that was not feeling well so she went home. It was a Friday and she appeared to have the flu, so going home to rest over the weekend made sense. Unfortunately, later that day she had a fatal heart attack.

Heart disease can be silent showing no symptoms until a heart attack. However, we have information about the 9 risk factors. I encourage you to know your risk. Don’t ignore it because you think you are too young or it won’t happen to you. We are never too young nor too old to take control of our health. So schedule a preventive health care appointment so you can be informed and Get to the Heart of Your Health.

by Michele Spear