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Wear Red and Look After Your Heart {Infographic}


This year National Wear Red Day, on February 1, will mark 10 years of campaigning to make more women aware of the threat of heart disease, which kills more women every year than all cancers combined.

This great campaign was launched in 2003, when the American Heart Association faced the challenge of doing something to tackle the fact that nearly 500,000 American women were dying from heart disease every year.

The facts are astounding:

  • Heart disease is the No 1 killer of women
  • It causes 1 in 3 women’s deaths each year, killing approximately one woman every minute
  • An estimated 43 million women in the US are affected by heart disease
  • 23% of women will die within 1 year after having a heart attack

Star Misses Heart Attack Symptoms

Rosie O’Donnell tells a great cautionary tale. Recently,  she dismissed an aching body, clammy skin, a rising temperature, and throwing up as over exertion, even though she went online to look up heart attack symptoms in women.

The next day when she finally visited her doctor she was told she was suffering a heart attack. And a scan showed a 99 percent artery blockage.

Today, she considers herself lucky to be alive.

O’Donnell’s story highlights a real problem: Women do not always have the same experience during a heart attack as men do. There may be no crushing chest pain, which may be why so many women might dismiss what is happening to them.

The Symptoms

Rather than crushing chest pain, a woman may experience:

  • Discomfort, tightness, uncomfortable pressure, fullness, squeezing in the center of the chest lasting more than a few minutes, or coming and going
  • Pressure or pain that spreads to the shoulders, neck, upper back, jaw, or arms
  • Dizziness or nausea
  • Clammy sweats, heart flutters, or paleness
  • Unexplained feelings of anxiety, fatigue, or weakness,  especially with exertion
  • Stomach or abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing

Women and Heart Attacks

The causes of heart attacks in men and women also differ. The traditional risk factors are there: family history, stress, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, and inflammation.

However, there are some that play a role in the development of heart disease in women, according to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Metabolic syndrome a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides
  • Mental stress and depression
  • Smoking
  • Low levels of estrogen after menopause

And researchers from the American Academy of Neurology add another one to this list: Women who suffer from migraines accompanied by visual disturbances, such as flashes of light, may be at increased risk of heart attacks and blood clots.

Promoting Heart Health Naturally

With Wear Red Day coming up, it is worth spending a moment on just what natural steps you can take  to help out your heart.

You can help reduce inflammation in your body, for example, by following Dr Andrew Weil’s advice to follow an anti-inflammatory diet and take fish oil supplements if you are not getting two to three servings of fish a week. He also recommends taking anti-inflammatory herbs, such as ginger and turmeric.

And Dr Oz has developed a 28-Day Heart Disease Prevention Plan to get you on track.

He believes that poor diet, lack of exercise, and years of bad lifestyle habits takes its toll on your heart.

He also believes:

  • If you smoke, stop
  • Perform moderate exercise for at least 20 minutes on most days
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes
  • Maintain a healthy weight and waist
  • Control high blood pressure
  • Manage abnormal cholesterol
  • Control high blood sugar
  • Drink alcohol in moderation
  • Practice stress-reduction techniques
  • Maintain a good balance between personal and professional life
  • Be vigilant about taking medications to control risk factors
  • Take one aspirin daily if you are in a high-risk category
  • Take a few extra aspirin tablets with you to take just in case you find yourself experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack

Natural Supplements for Women’s Heart Health

Supplementation can also play a major role in the health of your heart.

For a top cardiologist’s advice on heart-health supplements and vitamins, WebMD turned to Mimi Guarneri, MD, the founder and medical director of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in California and author of The Heart Speaks.

Guarneri recommends:

  • Fish oils
  • Plant sterols
  • Niacin
  • Fiber (psyllium)
  • Red yeast rice
  • Green tea extract
  • B-Complex vitamins (B6, B12, folic acid)
  • Coenzyme Q10
  • Policosanol

Pick Up the Berry Habit

If you like your fruit, then treating yourself to three servings a week of blueberries and strawberries may help reduce the risk of a heart attack, according to a study published in the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation.

“We showed for the first time that a regular intake of substances that are naturally present in red-, blue-colored fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of a heart attack by about 32 percent in young and middle-aged women [ages mid-40s to 60],” compared with women who ate berries once a month or less, says study author Aedin Cassidy of the University of East Anglia.

Show You Care with Green Tea

Or lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease may actually be as easy as drinking some green tea.

Studies published in Harvard Medical Schools’ Harvard Health Publications suggest this light, aromatic tea may lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol and triglycerides, helping to reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke.

National Red Wear Day promotes a great cause, although it may get a little lost in the torrent of special occasions on the calendar these days. But let’s hope that its 10th anniversary produces some national media attention that helps to save lives.

Women's Heart Health Infographic

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