Did you know that each year more women die of heart disease than breast cancer? Heart disease kills one in four women in the US. Know the risk factors you can control and talk with your doctor about your concerns. Whether it’s a mild or life-threatening problem, you don’t have to drive to Pittsburgh or Cleveland for heart treatment – the very best care is right here in Morgantown at the WVU Heart and Vascular Institute. Partho P. Sengupta, MD, chief of cardiology, gives you the lowdown on what you can do to boost your heart health all year long.
Blood pressure: Monitor it.
- High blood pressure (hypertension) is dangerous because it has no signs or symptoms, and it’s one of the main causes of heart disease.
- Your blood pressure is the level of force at which your blood flows throughout your body. When it gets too high, your heart has to work harder to pump blood. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80.
- A single high blood pressure reading doesn’t mean you have a problem, but your blood pressure should be monitored over time so that any concerns can be addressed early on with medication or other interventions. Checking your blood pressure at home can also be as good as taking it in the clinic.
Weight: Lower it.
- Even losing a small amount of weight can make a big difference to your heart health. If you are overweight, aim to lose 5-10 percent of your total body weight.
- Fruits and veggies matter: Get at least three cups of vegetables and two cups of fruits per day. Add more healthy snacks like carrot sticks or fresh fruit to your diet.
- Consider adding more vegetarian meals into your weekly routine; a diet with less or no red meat is better for your heart. Try this roasted vegetables side dish.
Alcohol: Limit it.
- Excessive drinking can increase your blood pressure and your risk of having a stroke. Women shouldn’t exceed one drink per day: 12 ounces of beer, four to five ounces of wine, or one ounce of liquor.
- Alcohol is high in calories, too. And when you add drink mixers, the calories increase even more. Drink less to lose weight and protect your heart.
- Drink more unsweetened beverages with fewer calories and sugar. Try refreshing, sparkling water or add fresh fruit to a pitcher or bottle of water for fruit-infused water.
Smoking: Quit it.
- It’s a tough habit to break. Did you know that WVU Medicine offers a smoking cessation support group and classes to help you quit? Call 855-WVU-CARE today to learn more.
- It takes most smokers a few tries before they quit for good. Keep trying, and let us help you breathe easier.
Exercise: Enjoy it.
- Get moving for at least 150 minutes a week. You can break it down into 10-15 minutes intervals if that works better for you. Use music as an inspiration to get moving.
- Take the stairs. Walk and talk with a colleague on your lunch break or before or after work.
- Try an online exercise video or a workout class at a fitness center. Find what works best for your lifestyle, and commit to adding more physical activity to each day. Your heart will thank you.
Heart attack: Know the symptoms.
Men and women experience a heart attack differently. An "elephant-on-the-chest" type of pain is usually experienced by men when large arteries shut down. Women have more subtle symptoms including:
- Pain or discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back
- Chest discomfort with sweating
- Pain that spreads from the chest to the arm, neck, or jaw
- Shortness of breath, tiredness, or upset stomach
If you’re at risk for heart disease and experience these symptoms, don’t waste any time or try to wait it out. Call 911 immediately.