They say that when it comes to matters of the heart, men and women differ in many ways. This might or might not be true when it comes to romance. When it comes to the hard science of heart health, however, this sentiment is a matter of fact.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women, but their experience during a heart-health crisis can differ dramatically. This is why it’s so critical for women to be mindful of what their hearts are telling them – not just during Heart Health Month, but throughout the year.
Women of color should be keenly aware of their heart health. Research shows that heart disease is more prevalent among Black women than White women. Black women live with almost two times the risk of stroke than White women, and they are more likely to die at an earlier age when compared to women of other ethnicities.
Symptoms of heart disease can vary. Chest pain is the most frequent tell-tale sign. But heart attack symptoms for women are more likely to include other sensations, some of which we don’t commonly associate with heart stress:
However, no one should be content waiting for indications of a health crisis. Proactively monitoring heart health can help prevent heart attacks and strokes before they happen. Heart health begins with paying careful attention to these signs:
If you feel something is wrong, don’t wait to act. Any time you experience worrying symptoms, you should visit your primary care physician for further evaluation. Even if you don’t think the matter is serious, it could be. So let your doctor know. If your symptoms require further evaluation, your doctor may need to refer you to a cardiologist.
Heart health isn’t just about monitoring. It’s also about creating. Everyone can take proactive steps to build a stronger heart and lower the risk of heart disease.
Staying motivated to exercise can already be a challenge. But keep in mind that exercise can and should be fun. Heart-pumping activities can include walking, swimming, ice skating, rowing, biking, hiking, skiing and even dancing!
The goal is simple: get your heart rate going for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity, five days a week. Here’s a pro tip that you might not realize: you can split up this time into 10-minute chunks of activity spread throughout the day and still see the same benefits.
Other fundamental heart-health strategies require less activity but just as much commitment.
The first steps toward better heart health shouldn’t be difficult. Don’t set yourself up for failure by aiming for lofty ideals – set realistic targets instead. Start small and focus on making better choices in your everyday routines. Make daily or weekly fitness goals and hold yourself accountable by keeping track of your physical activity, get an accountability partner or sign up for virtual fitness classes.
Remember the old fable of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race – and it also strengthens the heart.
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age or disability in its health programs and activities. Learn more about our non-discrimination policy and no-cost services available to you.
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