Heart disease is the number one killer of men and women, causing one in four male deaths and one in five female deaths a year. While men’s health experts have put a strong emphasis on heart health for years, it hasn’t been that way for women’s health until recently. Especially when we take in the fact that more women are affected by heart disease than all forms of cancer combined. This includes breast cancer! Now is the time to learn the facts about heart disease, assess your heart health risk factors, and know the warning signs of a heart attack for both men and women (they are different!).
Heart Health Risks in Women and Men
According to the American Heart Association, 90% of women and a majority of men have one or more risk factors for heart disease at some point in their lives. Yet, here’s another interesting fact. 80% of cardiovascular diseases are preventable if you pay attention to your risk factors and move to make healthy lifestyle choices. Some health conditions and lifestyle choices that can work against you and increase your chance for heart disease include:
- Obesity or being overweight
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet
- Excessive alcohol use
- Age (over age 50 in women or over 45 in men)
Additional heart disease risk factors that are unique to women include going through menopause or being post-menopausal, having numerous ovarian cysts, and having high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy.
Warning Signs of Heart Attacks
Heart disease doesn’t affect everyone alike. Some may never even realize they are having heart disease symptoms. Unfortunately, the warning signs of a heart attack are also often more subtle in women than in men. That means you may not get that “elephant-on-the-chest” feeling that many men do to know you’re experiencing a heart attack.
Some common heart attack symptoms in men include:
- Pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw, or back
- Nausea, indigestion, heartburn, or abdominal pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
- Lightheadedness or sudden dizziness
Some common heart attack symptoms in women include:
- Pain that spreads from the chest to your arm, neck, jaw, or upper back
- Pain or discomfort in the center of your chest (that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back)
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen
- Cold sweats
- Unusual tiredness or fatigue
- Trouble sleeping
Know your numbers to improve heart health
Knowing your numbers is an important way to keep track of and measure your heart health. The reason for this is that too-high blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar have few if any symptoms at first. That means the only way to know your levels is to have them checked at least annually. Below are four key numbers everyone should know.
Healthy Target: 120/80 or less
High blood pressure causes your heart muscle to work harder. This can lead to an enlarged or weakened heart. High blood pressure also narrows your arteries, which interrupts proper blood flow to your heart and brain.
Healthy Target: Total cholesterol lower than 200 mg/dL
Too much cholesterol in your body can also lead to heart disease because it leads to plaque buildup inside your blood vessels. This causes your arteries to harden, narrow, and limit blood flow to your heart and brain. Aim to keep your LDL cholesterol less than 100 mg/dL and your HDL cholesterol greater than 60 mg/dL. Your triglycerides should also be under 150 mg/dL.
Fasting Blood Glucose
Healthy Target: up to 100 mg/dL
You’re considered prediabetic if your fasting blood glucose levels fall between 100 to 125 mg/dL and diabetic if you’re above 125 mg/dL. This is important because diabetes can harm every organ in your body, including damaging your nerves and blood vessels.
Body Mass Index
Healthy target: 18.5 to 24.9
Your BMI is a weight-height guide that can help your healthcare provider determine if you’re overweight or obese. This is important because excess weight can cause all the other numbers listed above to rise, increasing your risk for heart disease and heart attacks. But BMI should be looked at as a guide, not a black-and-white rule. That’s because not everyone that falls outside the BMI range is considered at risk. For example, many athletes have a higher BMI because muscle weighs more than fat. If your BMI is higher than the healthy target, talk to your healthcare provider about a healthy range for you and if you need to take steps to lower it.
Need help getting your heart health numbers in check?
Check out this article for some of our top heart-healthy tips that can help women and men improve their heart health by managing the risk of developing heart diseases and heart health issues in the future. READ: 8 How-To Tips to Improve Heart Health
In addition to those heart-healthy tips, you can also try out Aceva’s Heart Care Bundle which is a great foundation for helping improve your overall cardiovascular health. Included in the bundle are:
- CT-Reg – Features ingredients that have been shown to significantly improve many lipid markers (cholesterol, LDL HDL, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar, Hg-A1C, and fasting glucose).
- CoQ10 – Uses the highest absorbable form of ubiquinol and helps protect the arterial system by supporting your body’s cellular energy production.
- Omega 3 Plus – Helps you combat inflammation, reduce triglycerides, slow the buildup of plaque, and help lower your blood pressure.
Bottom Line on Heart Health
Many of us are so busy taking care of and managing life that we tend to overlook or ignore our own health. To make sure you’re the best you going forward, assess your heart health risks, make any heart-healthy changes that need to be made, and get your numbers checked regularly so you can track and measure how well you’re doing with your overall heart health. Be sure to talk with your AlignLife Chiropractor about ways they can help you improve your heart health too! From spine health to weight management and functional nutrition, everything works together to make up your overall health.