Women Veterans Health Care
February is American Heart Health Month. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is partnering with the American Heart Association to raise awareness about heart health for women Veterans by asking women Veterans to Know Your Numbers (Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol, and Body Weight) this February.
Heart Disease in Women
Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths in all women every year in the United States. They kill one woman every 80 seconds. An estimated 44 million women in the United States are affected by heart disease.
Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke. Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
Tips to Prevent Heart Disease
The secret to preventing heart disease is recognizing and managing risk factors with your provider. To help prevent heart disease, women must take control of their health and know your numbers.
- Schedule a visit with your Primary Care Provider. Talk to your doctor about your weight; body mass index (BMI); waist circumference; blood pressure; cholesterol; fasting blood sugar; and family medical history
- Be more active. Making small lifestyle changes may reduce heart disease symptoms and give your heart time for what matters most. Brisk walking for three or more hours per week could reduce the risk of coronary events in women by 30 to 40 percent. Increasing walking time or combining walking with vigorous exercise appears to be associated with even greater risk reduction. Ten minutes of walking three times a day can also lower blood pressure.
- Eat better. Eat anutritious diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Also, eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole-grains, and lean proteins like fish 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.
- If you smoke, talk to your doctor for resources that can help you quit.
Signs of a Heart Attack in Women
Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable, like feeling as though an elephant is sitting on your chest. In reality, heart attack signs for women can be subtler and sometimes confusing.
As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience other heart attack signs, such as:
- shortness of breath
- back or jaw pain
- uncomfortable pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
- upper back pressure
- 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.
Talk to Your Provider about Heart Health
Women Veterans are encouraged to talk to their provider about any heart health concerns. A variety of treatment options can be tailored for each woman Veteran’s unique heart health needs.
Resources for Hearth Health Support
- American Heart Association (AHA): Funds heart disease medical research studies and offers comprehensive information about various heart conditions and treatments. Sponsors “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.
VA Goes RED! Poster
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