One out of three Olympia women who die this year, will likely die from heart disease. Those are the cold hard facts.
Did you know heart disease is the nation’s number 1 killer of all Americans? It is not cancer, as many tend to believe. According to a Consumer Reports article, May 2017, an estimated 790,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year; 1 in 7 deaths is caused by heart disease. And in women, it is even worse;1 in 3 deaths each year is due to heart disease. That is approximately one woman every 60 seconds!
Those are terrible statistics.
A year ago, February, my 96-year-old mother suffered a heart attack and was immediately taken into surgery to add three stents. Granted, she was 96 and that was her second heart attack, but at the outset she was certain she was having a stroke. Her symptoms were sudden fatigue, overwhelming nausea, and she became cold and clammy. It wasn’t until the medics arrived that it was determined she was in the throes of a major heart attack. Three stents, and a year and a half later her heart is doing well.
Recently someone 27 years younger than my mother and also very close to me, went to the emergency room with symptoms of a heart attack. Although there were indications of “abnormalities” both in the hospital tests, blood work, and in follow-up tests, she did not have to undergo surgery and is in a program managing her lifestyle to prevent a major attack. She did not immediately recognize her symptoms as a possible heart attack. It began with pressure and heavy discomfort in the lower jaw. Then a sudden, flaming sore throat. The pain and discomfort traveled through her chest to her stomach area where there was intense pressure; for her there was never direct pain in her heart, and the entire event lasted only 5 to 6 minutes.
According to the American Heart Association, most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach. Additional symptoms may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness, shortness of breath and more.
Important facts: An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases.
▪ 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
▪ Women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men.
▪ 80 percent of heart disease and stroke events may be prevented by lifestyle changes and education
▪ Fewer women than men survive their first heart attack.
The symptoms of heart attack can be different in women than in men, and are often misunderstood — even by some physicians.
If you experience any symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1! Do not drive yourself to the hospital or have a family member drive you. Today, new medications and treatments can save your life just by being administered immediately in an ambulance. And if you believe you might be having a heart attack, you do not want to be driving.
In many commercial areas, AED’s (Automatic External Defibrillator) are available in the event someone needs help waiting for medics to arrive. Immediate help is often essential to save a life and lessen ongoing effects of a heart attack or stroke. You can also administer “Hands-only CPR”, which is 100 to 120 compressions per minute to someone waiting for medical help (you can watch a video at the American Heart Association website to learn this life saving technique).
What can you do? The AHA provide seven steps to healthy hearts:
▪ Get active
▪ Lower cholesterol with diet and food
▪ Eat better
▪ Manage your blood pressure by reducing sodium and stress
▪ Lose weight
▪ Reduce blood sugar
▪ Stop smoking
The next time you are spending time with your girlfriends, look around and remember, 1 in 3 of you is statistically going to have a heart attack. Don’t wait to take charge of your heart.
You can learn more by going to the American Heart Association.
Susan Ritter is a semiretired business owner and a member of the Olympian Board of Contributors.