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
VA joins the American Heart Association again this February to Go Red for Women. We encourage women Veterans to take control of their heart health by adopting heart-healthy habits to lower their risk of heart disease.
Many people don’t realize heart disease is the number one killer of women and the most common cause of disability. According to a recent American Heart Association survey, only one in ten women named heart disease as the greatest threat to a woman’s health, while six in ten pointed to breast cancer. This lack of awareness has consequences, such as misunderstanding symptoms or delaying seeking treatment. Although more women die from heart disease than men each year, related risk factors are often missed.
There are some uncontrollable factors that can increase the risk of heart disease in women, such as age, gender, race, and family history. But some lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet, managing stress, and exercising can help women prevent or lower their risks.
VA provides a whole health approach to care that treats the entire woman, not just the symptoms. Because early heart disease may not cause any symptoms, VA encourages women Veterans to get regular checkups with their providers and to know their numbers.
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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