Living a Heart Healthy Life

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Living a Heart Healthy Life

 

As American Heart Month comes to a close, it’s time we reflect on the number 1 killer of Americans: heart disease. Although this month is focused on awareness, we’re urging Americans to adopt healthier lifestyles to prevent heart disease year-round. Our Q+A below offers helpful information and tips to help you live a heart healthy life.

 

Who is at risk of heart disease?

Your lifestyle, family history, age, and certain health conditions (such as high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, diabetes, and obesity) can all increase your risk for heart disease. The three biggest risk factors are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Nearly half of all Americans have at least one of these three key risk factors.

Eating a diet high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol; not getting enough physical activity; drinking too much alcohol; and tobacco use can also increase your risk for heart disease.

 

How can you reduce your risk of heart disease?

While there are some uncontrollable risk factors, there are plenty of ways for everyone to reduce their risk of heart disease.

As with many health conditions, maintaining a healthy weight, getting adequate exercise, and eating healthy foods are important ways to lower your risk for disease. Sleep and stress can also greatly contribute to your health, so be sure to prioritize sleep and find healthy ways to manage your stress, such as meditation or physical activity.

Don’t forget, it’s also imperative to stay up to date on your health screenings—high blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage the heart, but without testing, you may never know whether you have a condition.

 

What are the symptoms of heart disease?

Heart disease symptoms can depend on what type of heart disease you have, your biological sex, and your age. However, it’s generally a good idea to get checked out if you experience chest pain or tightness, shortness of breath, numbness in your legs or arms, lightheadedness, an irregular heartbeat, breathlessness with exertion, or unexplained fatigue.

Often, people with heart disease may not be diagnosed until they experience a heart attack, angina, stroke, or heart failure, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of heart disease and discuss any concerns with your doctor.

 

What are the symptoms of heart disease in women?

Even though heart disease is the number 1 killer of women in the US, women often pay less attention to the symptoms they’re experiencing. And, symptoms can even differ than those experienced by men, making it harder for women to know what to look for.

For women, the most common symptom is chest pain, pressure, or discomfort, but chest pain is not always severe or noticeable. Women are also more likely than men to have subtle, sometimes even confusing, symptoms unrelated to chest pain, such as:
– neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, lower chest, or abdominal pressure or pain
– shortness of breath
– pain in one or both arms
– nausea or vomiting
– sweating
– lightheadedness or dizziness
– extreme fatigue
– indigestion

 

There’s a lot you can do to protect your heart. Stay active (even a little activity is better than none), eat healthy foods, quit smoking, reduce stress, and prioritize your sleep. Small changes can improve your overall health in big ways.

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