Heart disease is the number one killer of women in America. One in every three American women dies of heart disease.

In fact, women are six times more likely to die from heart disease than from breast cancer. Heart disease includes a range of conditions that affect the heart and the blood vessels in the heart. Types of conditions include: coronary artery disease, angina, heart disease, heart failure, and heart arrhythmias.

Women tend to show up in emergency rooms after much heart damage has already occurred because their symptoms are not those typically associated with a heart attack. Treatments are most effective if administered within one hour of when the attack begins. Chest pain is not always severe, or even the most prominent symptom in women. Other symptoms may include: shortness of breath, sweating, unusual fatigue, lightheadedness or dizziness, and nausea or vomiting. Spreading pain to one or both arms, back, jaw, or stomach may also be present.

Women can lower their risk of heart disease by as much as 82 percent just by leading a healthy lifestyle. Also, managing risk factors can prevent or delay the onset of heart disease, even in women with strong family histories of Heart Disease.

  • Know your “numbers that count”-cholesterol, glucose, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI)-in order to assess your risks and monitor your heart health.
    • Have your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked at least once every five years. Reduce levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase levels of HDL (good cholesterol).
    • Regularly screen your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is less than or equal to 120/80, you are in the normal range. If your blood pressure is elevated (above 130/90), contact your doctor to discuss methods for lowering your blood pressure.
  • Regular exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease.
    • Women need at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days per week. Try walking, jogging, cycling, or dancing.
    • Measure your daily steps by wearing a pedometer. Try to get your step count up to 10,000 per day. Keep bumping the number up by 1,500 steps a day until you reach the goal. Walking this amount each day can make a real difference – and you only need comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes.
  • Eat healthy and balance your meals for the day.
    • Eat more vegetables, fruits and fibers.
    • Decrease your intake of saturated fats and sodium and eliminate trans-fats. meals for the day.
  • Drink plenty of water everyday.
    • Water helps to metabolize stored fat and reduces fatty deposits.
    • A good way to estimate how much water you need is to take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That gives you the number of ounces of water per day that you need to drink.
  • Heart disease strikes people with diabetes twice as often as people without diabetes. Women with diabetes should work closely with their doctors to manage their diabetic symptoms and decrease their risk of heart disease.
  • Quit smoking and reduce your exposure to secondhand smoke. Non-smokers have less risk of heart attack than smokers.

Sources: American Heart Association, Medical News Today, NIH, U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services – National Women’s Health Info Center, and Washington and Shady GroveAdventistHospitals. For additional information, consult your physician.