That's the amount of women who die from heart disease each year.
One in 5.
That's the number of women who believe it can’t happen to them. Yet heart disease is more deadly than all cancers combined. So although you might think it’s just overweight, older men who are at risk, it could happen to you too.
The good news is that there are easy things you can do to prevent your risk for heart disease.
Here are five.
Get a CIMT.Sure, it's important to eat healthy, exercise, and control your cholesterol, but one of the best ways to prevent heart disease is with a carotid intima-media thickness test (CIMT).This non-invasive ultrasound identifies plaque in the wall of the carotid artery as well as wall thickness. Your physician can also order blood tests that evaluate the level of inflammation in your body, a precursor for heart disease and help you make specific lifestyle changes to reduce your risk.
Ask about other health conditions.A lot of women have heart disease and don’t even know it. In fact, I have several patients who have autoimmune diseases like psoriatic arthritis that cause inflammation, which is the driving force of heart disease. What’s more, research shows that women are more likely to have heart attacks and strokes after menopause, so it’s a good idea to make sure you’re doing all you can to stay healthy.
Know the signs.When men are having a heart attack, it usually shows up as chest pain or pain in their left arm. Yet for women, the symptoms are typically more vague:
Chest pain, pressure or burning.
Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, shoulder, abdomen or back.
Shortness of breath.
Since you’re busy caring for everyone else, it’s easy to dismiss your symptoms until it’s too late. In fact, only 65 percent of women who think they’re having a heart attack will dial 9-1-1. What’s more, physicians may incorrectly or misdiagnose a woman who is really having a heart attack. So know the signs, trust your gut, and be your own advocate.
Hit the gym - and start lifting. I know you don’t want to look like a body builder, but muscle is important if you want to prevent a heart attack. Muscle builds up your metabolic rate so you can burn off body fat, prevent insulin resistance and inflammation, and damage to your arteries. The good news is that within 3 months of being on an exercise plan that focuses on strength training, you can build up enough muscle to reverse your risk for heart disease.
Get your stress under control.Chronic stress can raise your heart rate and blood pressure and over time, it’s believed to damage your arteries. Making a daily effort to reduce stress is one of the best ways to prevent a heart attack. So go to the spa, take a walk or meditate. In fact, a recent study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that just 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation for 3 consecutive days is enough to significantly reduce stress.