Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States? Yet the risks and symptoms can be very different between men and women. Launched in 2004, the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign seeks to raise awareness and end heart disease and strokes in women.
One in three women die of heart disease, but post-menopausal women are more at risk for cardiovascular disease because of the reduced level of estrogen in the body. Premature birth and autoimmune conditions like lupus are also unique factors for women. Smaller arteries in women are prone to conditions that may not show plaque buildup, and certain heart medications may affect women differently than men.
What to Watch for:
For women symptoms of a heart attack may include:
- Chest pain, but not always
- Pain or pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen
- Jaw, neck or upper back pain
- Nausea or vomiting
- Shortness of breath
- Extreme fatigue
More than just a campaign, the Go Red for Women initiative invites women to make a commitment to their heart health through diet, exercise and increased mental well-being.
What’s on Your Plate?
Good nutrition is a great defense against heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends
- Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
- Fish (preferably oily, like salmon): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
- Fiber-rich whole grains: three 1-ounce servings a day
- Nuts, legumes and seeds: 4 servings a week, ideally unsalted
- Processed meats: No more than two servings a week
- Saturated fat: keep it 7 % or less of your total calorie intake
The American Heart Association recommends exercising for just 30 minutes a day, which can even be split into three 10-minute sessions. The benefits are numerous:
- Reduces coronary heart disease in women by 30-40 percent
- Delays chronic illness and disease associated with aging
- Helps manage weight & increases energy
- Improves cholesterol levels and blood circulation
- Prevents and manages high blood pressure & prevents bone loss
- Aids stress management, falling asleep faster and sleeping more soundly
How to get that exercise? What about a walking program? Walking has the lowest dropout rate of any exercise. It’s free and something you can do with friends. According to the AHA, studies show that for every hour of walking, life expectancy may increase by two hours.
Good heart health involves your overall quality of life. Mental wellness support is as important as your diet and exercise habits. According to research from the AHA, depression is linked to almost a doubled risk of stroke in middle-aged women. Consider incorporating these daily practices:
- Meditation – when we get stressed, our bodies release the cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine hormones, elevating our heart rates and blood pressure. Meditation helps regulate our inner states and reduce those hormone levels. If you’re looking for a way to begin, there’s an app for that! Ten Percent Happier Meditation app was voted the best one for beginners. You can find multiple ways to begin a mindfulness practice on growingbolder.com
- Community – Community = immunity. Exercise and share heart healthy recipes with friends. You can also find support to make more heart healthy choices online by joining the AMA’s GoRedGetFit Facebook group.
- Gratitude – A study by the American Psychological Association showed that “recognizing and giving thanks for the positive aspects of life can result in improved mental, and ultimately physical, health in patients with asymptomatic heart failure.
Higher gratitude scores were associated with better mood, higher quality sleep, more self-efficacy and less inflammation.
Remember to schedule your Annual Wellness Visit with your primary care doctor! The American Heart Association recommends getting your :
- Cholesterol checked every 5 years
- Blood pressure checked at least every 2 years
- Blood glucose levels checked every 3 years
- Body Mass Index checked during every regular health care visit
You can find general information about the Annual Wellness Visit at medicare.gov
This story was created in partnership with Florida Blue.
For Florida Blue Medicare Advantage members, this visit is covered at $0 copay when members see an in-network doctor. If your doctor orders any labs or follow-up tests, you may have a copay for those services. And our MA members can earn HealthyBlue Rewards for completing their Annual Wellness Visit. To learn more log in to your My Health LinkTM account at floridablue.com/medicare or call the phone number on the back of your Florida Blue member ID card.
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