Heart disease is the Number One killer of women in the United States and is responsible for about 1 in every 4 female deaths. The Centers for Disease Control says that although awareness is increasing, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is such a threat. That just reinforces its position as a silent killer. Education and awareness are the best way to help protect your loved one from heart disease. Here is what you need to know.
One of the biggest problems in fighting heart disease in women is that nearly two-thirds (64%) of those who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms. A woman can still be at risk for heart disease even though there are no symptoms. Complicating that is the fact that the signs and symptoms of heart attack in women can easily be attributed to something else. That’s because women don’t have the classic heart attack symptoms that we all are familiar with – pain in the chest and running down one arm.
Women commonly have a different set of heart attack symptoms that include:
- Arrhythmias: fluttering feelings in the chest (palpitations)
- Loss of appetite
- A sense of malaise
Because women don’t realize that these may be possible signs of heart disease, it delays diagnosis and treatment. Those delays can result in further damage to heart tissue, or even death.
When a woman has a heart attack, she may experience heaviness or pain in her chest just like men do, but more frequent symptoms include:
- Nausea, vomiting, sweating and chills
- Pain in the arm, back, neck and/or jaw
- Pain around the bra line
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
If you are caring for a senior loved one and see that she has these symptoms, insist that she see her physician. When it comes to the heart, all medical professionals agree- it is better to be safe than sorry. They would rather see a patient and find that the heart is fine, than not see her until she is suffering a heart attack.
Thankfully, it is easy to manage the major risks for heart disease. These include diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, overweight and obesity, and an inactive lifestyle. Improving lifestyle habits can control these risks and will go a long way toward preventing heart disease. As you care for your loved one, help her to live a healthy lifestyle in the following ways:
- Never smoke or stop smoking cigarettes and all other tobacco products.
- Eat a nutritious diet full of colorful fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Control fat, sugar and red meat. Eating fish twice a week provides good protein without the fat found in red meat.
- Avoid alcohol and consume no more than 1 drink per day.
- Work with her physician to control diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol through screenings, a healthy diet and if necessary, medications.
Encourage your loved one to have proper, regular screenings in order to avoid heart disease. These include:
- Blood pressure screenings: Uncontrolled blood pressure can result in heart disease. High blood pressure has no symptoms so it’s important to have blood pressure checked regularly.
- Diabetes: Talk to your loved one’s primary care physician about diabetes screening and whether or not it is suggested based on their individual and family medical history disease.
- Cholesterol: Ask her physician about checking her cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
If you are concerned about the health and well-being or your loved one and cannot be with her all day, call us. Our caregivers are trained specifically in senior care and can help to make sure that she eats nutritious meals, gets a bit of exercise and takes medications properly and on-time. Download our free guide to see how professional home care can assist you and your loved one.