Valentine’s Day is a time when we think about our hearts in a romantic way, but it’s also a great time to think about how we treat our actual hearts and what we can do to prevent heart disease in ourselves and be on the lookout for heart trouble in others.
Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women, and its often said that the first sign of a problem is death from a heart attack or stroke.
How to Be Kind to Your Heart
There are lots of things we can do to keep our hearts in good shape or to get in better cardiovascular health:
Don’t smoke, and stay away from secondhand smoke as much as possible.
Eat a healthy diet full of good fats, low in cholesterol, sugar and salt. Lose weight if you need to.
Move your body: get some physical activity daily.
Get your blood pressure checked regularly (WebMD says at least once every two years, more often if it’s high) and take steps to lower your blood pressure if you need to.
Build relaxation into your day through a hobby that calms you (all the better if it’s something that gets you active, too).
Get enough sleep: at least seven hours a night.
For more details check out Life’s Simple 7 at the Go Red for Women site, which has lots of details about healthy diet, exercise and other things you can do to improve your heart health. Or check out the diet guidelines for improving heart health from Positive HealthWellness.
Know the Heart Attack Signs for Women
I think most of us know what a heart attack is supposed to look like in men — intense chest pain, often radiating down an arm or felt in the jaw, shortness of breath, weakness, irregular heartbeat and a feeling like heartburn.
For women, though, it can be different, and you might not know you’re having a heart attack if you’re looking for the symptoms we associate with men. Women can have chest pain, too, of course, but it’s said to be more like a squeezing in the chest that may or may not be just on the left side.
Women also more commonly have pain in the arms, back or jaw during a heart attack. They may have stomach pain or pressure, nausea, shortness of breath, sweating and extreme fatigue.
Of course a lot of those symptoms could be explained away as something else like the flu or food poisoning, but when those feelings are associated with pain in the chest or upper body, it’s worth getting checked out.
Learn More About Heart Health
There are lots of great resources out there for learning about heart health, and it’s easy to start taking steps (literally and metaphorically) in the right direction to improve your heart health.
Learn the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest and what to do about each from ACLS Medical Training.
Go Red for Women is a great resource for women who want to know more about beating the odds of becoming one of the one in three women who die of heart disease every year (that’s about one death a minute every day, all year long).
And if there are kids in your life, check out the Simple 7 for Kids, too, and encourage them to be active, eat well and never start smoking so their hearts can stay healthy and strong throughout their lives.