Make It Your Business to Love Your Heart

The trick to juggling is determining which balls are made of rubber and which ones are made of glass.

This year about 1.2 million Americans will have a heart attack and roughly one-third of that number will die. However, women are particularly at risk due to lack of awareness, prevention, and action on what can often be very different heart attack symptoms from men. Despite the perception that cardiovascular trouble is a man’s problem, heart disease doesn’t discriminate, and is often more fatal for women.

A staggering one in every four women die from heart disease––and an estimated 8 million currently live with the condition.  In Michigan, an average of more than 43 women die from cardiovascular disease every day.

Despite these frightening statistics, women remain dangerously unaware of their personal risk. While 40 percent claim to be well-informed about heart disease––just 13 percent of women cite it as their greatest health threat.

That’s why Ingham Regional Medical Center has partnered with the American Heart Association (AHA) as the exclusive local healthcare sponsor of Go Red For Women––a nationwide movement that challenges women to make time to know their personal risk for heart disease and take potentially lifesaving action.

How can you Go Red for your own health? There are three basic components: knowing your risk, lowering your risk and learning the signs of a heart attack so you can seek immediate treatment.

Knowing your numbers––cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure––is a solid first step to assessing your personal risk for heart disease, and as easy as getting a physical or attending a cardiovascular screening. Many women don’t connect the dots between risk factors and their personal risk, so knowing your numbers will put your hazard for heart disease in clearer focus.

Now comes the hard part: reducing risk factors. Some things like age and family history can’t be changed, but many risks can be modified with lifestyle adjustments. At least 81 percent of women have at least one modifiable risk factor and 48 percent have two or more. With each risk factor a woman’s chance of developing heart disease more than doubles, so reducing risk is key to prevention.

It is never too early or too late to start loving your heart. Women under the age of 35 are most likely to rate their personal risk as low, but good habits adopted early in life will pay off later.

Quit smoking. Smoking is the single most preventable cause of death in the United States, and quitting will probably add time back into your life. As soon as you quit, your risk for stroke and heart attack begins to drop, regardless of how long you’ve smoked.

Get moving and eat healthy. Just 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity every day can reduce high blood pressure and help maintain a healthy weight. In collaboration with healthy eating, exercise will also help you feel and look better.

Fitting healthy eating and exercise habits into a busy schedule may be daunting. Don’t look to move mountains all at once. Start by making small changes to your routine.

Take the stairs, park your car farther away, walk briskly for ten minutes when you’re already out shopping. Stock up on healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables and low-fat granola bars. Treat yourself to an antioxidant-rich glass of red wine in the evenings and dark chocolate for dessert.

Finally, don’t forget to learn the signs of heart attack so you can seek immediate treatment. Heart attacks in women are more difficult to identify since women are less likely than men to experience the chest-crushing feeling most often associated with heart attack.

Instead, many women report indigestion or gas-like pain, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, unexplained weakness or fatigue, and a sense of impending doom. You know your own body best, so pay attention to unusual symptoms that don’t go away, and seek emergency treatment immediately.

Your family and friends already love your heart. Join them by making a commitment to love your heart too. Know your risk, lower your risk and know the signs of heart attack. Your heart depends on it.

Dr. Sandra Russell, DO, FACOOG, and Dr. Grace Gibbs, DO, practice at Meridian Women’s Health in Okemos, a subsidiary of Ingham Regional. They have been named medical co-chairs of the AHA’s Lansing Goes Red campaign.








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