I’m thrilled to welcome the latest addition to the Healthy Me! team, Raquel Villarreal. She’s an intern coming to us from California Institute of Integral Studies (my alma mater!), and today we’ll be debuting her first blog post. Today we’re celebrating National Wear Red Day, but Heart Health Awareness will go through this whole month. Stay tuned as Raquel will take a deep dive over the next few weeks to cover some different aspects of this “silent killer” and what you can do to take care of yourself.
American Heart Month
February is American Heart Month! Today starts with the National Wear Red Day-Go Red for Women-this year marks its 13th anniversary. The movement started in 2003 to spread the word about heart disease, especially in women, and all are encouraged to wear red to support the cause.
I was shocked to learn that heart disease and stroke are greater threats than all cancers combined for women! According to the American Heart Association heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year while 1 in 31 women die from breast cancer. Plus, more women than men die from heart disease — I had no idea! In fact, I didn’t even know heart disease and stroke were related, which meant I didn’t know I was personally affected. My grandmother died of a stroke, and being a Latina woman I learned I am more likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than non-Latinas-Say What?!!
Heart Disease vs. Cardiovascular Disease — Aren’t they the Same?
No, they aren’t the same even though they are both related to the heart. Heart disease, also known as cardiac disease relates to all diseases of the heart: heart failure, angina, arrhythmia, valvular heart disease and coronary artery disease. Cardiovascular disease relates to the disease of the heart or blood vessels including strokes and high blood pressure. The way I think of it is cardiovascular disease is like an umbrella and heart disease is underneath it, along with stroke and high blood pressure.
What Happens to the Body with Heart Disease or Stroke?
We have arteries throughout our bodies and their job is to supply the heart or brain with blood — a crucial part in keeping us alive. As we age, plaque-fatty deposits (imagine hair getting in the pipes) builds up in the walls of the arteries. When the plaque gets to be too much it explodes like an erupted volcano. A clot is formed inside the artery and as it gets bigger, it is harder for blood to flow to the heart or brain and when this happens the tissues of the heart or brain becomes damaged. Eventually, the clot breaks or blocks off the flow in the artery and causes a heart attack or stroke.
The Facts — Let’s Be Informed on Matters of the Heart!
It’s crucial that we debunk the myths of heart disease and learn the facts — it’s our best bet for prevention in lowering our risks for cardiovascular disease.
Fact: Heart disease is not just for men anymore and more women die from heart disease than men.
Fact: heart disease affects women of all ages — young and old. Ladies if you’re a smoker and taking birth control pills you increase your chance of getting heart disease by 20%!
Fact: 64% of women that suddenly died of a cardiovascular disease did not have symptoms, this is why it’s called the Silent Killer.
Fact: Men and women’s symptoms differ. Symptoms for women are shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, back or jaw pain, dizziness, light headedness/fainting, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen and extreme fatigue.
Fact: All women can be at risk for cardiovascular disease even if you are thin and physically fit. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, diabetes and family history along with being overweight or obese and lack of exercise.
Fact: Heart disease is the No. 1 Killer for Latina women
Good News: Prevention, Prevention, Prevention!
All women are at risk for cardiovascular disease, and the best way to lower your risk is through prevention — it works! 80% of cardiac and stroke events may be prevented with education and action. The choice is yours.
The American Heart Association Steps for Prevention:
- Quit smoking! Smoke is an evil monster for your body — don’t smoke or be around second-hand smoke.
- Move your body! Physical exercise is key — at least 30 minutes daily.
- Stress management: be aware of the stressors in your life and learn how to manage your stress.
- The foods you eat matter — choose wisely! Fruits, veggies, whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts are all good choices and stay away from sugary, processed foods.
- Schedule your annual well woman visit and take this online go red heart check up
Cardiovascular disease affects everyone — it’s a national problem. Sadly, every 3 minutes a woman dies from heart disease or stroke just as my grandmother did. There is hope with prevention and education to spread the word about heart disease and stroke. Here’s how you can help: donate to aid in more research/education and wear red today. Let everyone know you support cardiovascular disease and Go Red for Women!
Learn more about Raquel and our other interns on our Bloggers Page.