Women Veterans Health Care
February is American Heart Month
Throughout the day, women receive plenty of reminders—cell phones chime to confirm appointments and calendar-alerts cue upcoming meetings—but the month of February notes a life-saving reminder: it’s American Heart Month. Do you know your numbers?
Know Your Numbers. Your Heart Depends on It.
One in three women die from cardiovascular diseases and stroke each year, killing about one woman every 80 seconds. Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
Fortunately, heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education, and it all starts with knowing your numbers. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you be aware of five key numbers: Total Cholesterol, HDL (good) Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI). These numbers are important because they help providers determine your risk for developing cardiovascular diseases. Schedule a visit with your provider today.
Heart Disease in Women
The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women versus men, and are often misunderstood—even by some physicians. Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack and women also have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable, like feeling as though an elephant is sitting on your chest or intense tingling in your arm. Heart attack signs for women can be subtle and sometimes confusing. Like men, the most common heart attack symptom for women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience other heart attack signs, such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea or vomiting
- Back or jaw pain
- Dizziness or fainting
- Extreme fatigue
- Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain in the center of the chest
- Pain or discomfort in one or both arms
- Breaking out in a cold sweat.
Prevent Heart Disease
Recognizing and managing risk factors with your provider is the first step to preventing heart disease. Schedule a visit to talk with your provider about your weight (body mass index (BMI), waist circumference), blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, and family medical history.
This February, renew your commitment to making small lifestyle changes that can lower your risk for cardiovascular diseases and reduce symptoms.
- Be Active. Briskly walking for three or more hours per week could reduce the risk of coronary events in women by 30 to 40 percent. Ten minutes of walking three times a day can also lower blood pressure.
- Eat better. Talk to your provider about the right diet to manage your numbers, such as eating fruits and vegetables while cutting back on added sugars.
- Manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. Managing blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar can help reduce the risk of heart disease and heart attacks. High blood pressure and cholesterol are known risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
- Lose weight. If you’re overweight or obese, you can reduce your risk for heart disease by losing weight and keeping it off. Even losing as few as 5 or 10 pounds can produce a dramatic blood pressure reduction.
- Stop smoking. If you smoke, talk to your doctor for resources that can help you quit.
VA Goes Red for Women
Every February, VA’s Women’s Health Services collaborates with AHA in spreading awareness about heart disease prevention in women Veterans. VA is proud to announce that AHA named Dorn VA Medical Center employee, Army Veteran, and heart disease survivor, Beverly Buchanan as a 2018 Real Women Spokesperson. You can read Beverly’s full story on the AHA Real Women page.
Resources for Heart Health Support
- American Heart Association (AHA): Funds heart disease medical research studies and offers comprehensive information about various heart conditions and treatments. They also sponsor “Go Red for Women.”
- The AHA’s Rise Above Heart Failure online community offers a connection with others for support.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Preventing heart disease and tips on what you can do about it.
- Make the Call. Don't Miss a Beat: National campaign to empower women to learn the seven most common symptoms of a heart attack. Also available in Spanish.
- Million Hearts: National initiative to prevent a million heart attacks and strokes over five years.
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