Many people are familiar with the image of a heart attack sufferer clutching his or her chest or feeling surprising, tingling sensations in his or her left arm. While those symptoms are common, heart attacks can produce a wide array of symptoms, and some of them may actually be much less apparent than chest pain or tingling in the left arm. That is especially so for women.
The organization Go Red for Women, which highlights women’s heart health during the month of February, advises that many symptoms women can experience when suffering from heart disease may be overlooked or misunderstood as signs of less threatening conditions. However, jaw pain, nausea, pressure, and sweating all may be indicative of a heart attack. A failure to recognize that and act quickly could prove fatal.
The American Heart Association says that heart disease is the foremost killer of women in the United States. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says heart disease and stroke kill 31,000 women in Canada annually. Despite those figures, many women are unaware of the threat of heart disease and its symptoms.
Heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked by a buildup of a substance called plaque in the coronary arteries. Heart attack can strike any woman, though women who deal with high stress, are overweight, or are heavy smokers are at the greatest risk.
Symptoms of heart attack in women generally are more subtle than in men. These can include but are not limited to:
shortness of breath as though you just ran a marathon
a feeling of a squeezing rope tied around the upper back
neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort
Heart attacks are different for women. Women tend to have blockages not only in their main arteries, but in the smaller ones that supply blood to the heart. This is a condition called coronary microvascular disease, says the Mayo Clinic, and it may be why symptoms are more vague and not as apparent in women as they are in men.
Women also can have symptoms while resting or even when asleep, and emotional stress can trigger heart attack symptoms in women.
A woman’s risk for heart disease increases if she has diabetes, has experienced mental stress or depression, smokes, has gone through menopause, has had complications during a pregnancy, has an inflammatory disease, and/or is physically inactive.
The American Heart Association says the most common barrier to a regular physical activity routine for women is the lack of time. Work, family obligations, and other realities of daily life often get in the way of the best intentions to be more active. If you are committed to a physical activity program and setting goals for yourself, it’s helpful to first identify your personal barriers. By troubleshooting and developing tactics in advance, you will have better success overcoming them.
Another common reason women do not get their daily dose of cardio is a lack of motivation and/or energy. The American Heart Association says a good solution to this is to plan ahead. Schedule physical activity for specific times/days and “check” it off your list or calendar each time you complete it. Determine what time of day you feel more energetic and try to fit activity into that time frame.
24/7 workout facilities and gyms like Peak Fitness in Crystal Springs are a great option for those trying to balance the demands of a busy day and still get in a good workout. For more information on Peak Fitness’ 24HR facility and equipment, call 601-892-4800.
Women who suspect or notice any symptoms of heart attack should not hesitate to call for help. If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1 immediately; do not drive yourself.
Women of all ages should take heart disease seriously. Call Family Medical Clinic of Crystal Springs, 601-892-3063, and schedule a check-up with your provider to discuss your risks and heart health.
To learn more about heart disease, visit www.heart.org.
Dessert becomes heart-healthy
Health-conscious people don’t need to sacrifice sweets this Valentine’s Day. With a few substitute ingredients, even something as rich as chocolate pudding can be made healthier. Try this recipe for ‘Chocolate Avocado-Chia Pudding’ from the American Heart Association, which gets a healthy boost from creamy avocado and chia seeds.
Chocolate Avocado-Chia Pudding
Makes 6 1/2-cup servings
2 medium ripe avocados,
peeled and pitted
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup unsweetened
Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/4 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
3 Medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)
In a food processor or blender, process all the ingredients except the almonds until smooth.
Transfer the pudding to serving dishes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the chia seeds to thicken.
Just before serving, sprinkle with the almonds, if desired.