Go Red for Women

| By Sarah Crawford |

As February comes to a close, you might be glad to see all the shades of red from Valentine’s Day begin to disappear. Red flowers, red candies, red balloons… that color seems to have been everywhere lately, and it can be especially irritating if you don’t have a significant other to share it with! However, this past month, red was more than just the color of simple paper hearts, it was also a symbol for the living, blood-pumping organ. That’s right, February was National Heart Health Month, where people all across the country were talking about the body part that’s so much more than just a symbol of love.

Interestingly enough, heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, surpassing breast cancer by substantial numbers. And why is this? Perhaps it’s because we, as women, just have so much love to give to others (okay I’m being a little bias here). Actually, the reason is because the symptoms in women are often misdiagnosed as other illnesses. While men have typical heart attack symptoms, like chest pain and cold sweats, women often experience more subtle signs. These may include anything from jaw, stomach, neck, or back pain, shortness of breath, and nausea. As a result, women may not seek necessary treatment until it’s too late. That’s why it’s particularly important for women to take extra measures to watch out for their heart.

heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, surpassing breast cancer by substantial numbers

If you’re a woman in your teens or twenties and reading this article, you may not think it pertains to you. However, it’s never too soon to start watching out for your health, no matter how young and invincible you may think you are. And to the men reading this, you all have mothers, grandmothers, and other women in your lives that you love, so it’s beneficial to know how to keep their hearts healthy. And don’t worry, the ways to maintain your heart health are actually pretty simple, and you might even be doing them already.

Eating the right types of foods can be one of the most prudent measures anyone can take when it comes to their heart. Avoiding excess amounts of sugars – which may also be labeled as glucose, fructose, and corn syrup – can do wonders. Saturated fats are known to cause high cholesterol, so it would be best to cut out, or at the very least limit that food group from your diet. Instead, eat the good fats, including fish, nuts, and vegetable oils. And I know it’s hard, but try and stop reaching for the salt shaker every time you enjoy a meal! The foods we consume already have more than enough salt, so it would be even better pick out foods labeled “low-sodium.” If you’re worried about your food tasting bland, try mixing it up with some different spices instead.

Sleep can do wonders for your overall health, but it significantly lowers your risk of developing high blood pressure, which puts extra stress on your heart. Even more so, lack of sleep can cause weight gain, which not only isn’t good for your heart, but it’s also something a lot of us women don’t want! With all the roles we play in life, from college students or professors to busy moms, it may seem next to impossible to get the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep on a daily basis. Try to establish a routine at night, whether it be taking a hot shower or bath or drinking a cup of hot tea (decaffeinated obviously), to ease your body to relax into sleep. And definitely get off your phone at night! I know I’m guilty of scrolling through social media for hours, while I could use that time better spent sleeping. Not only will turning off your phone help you resist the urge to spend precious time on it, but not staring at that little screen will promote better sleep, ensuring you feel much more rested in the morning.

If you find that you live a pretty sedentary lifestyle, it’s time to get moving! Physical activity is proven not only help you shed those extra pounds, but also reduce high blood pressure, prevent coronary artery disease, and boost levels of the good cholesterol. And don’t think that you have to go out and buy a gym membership tomorrow, just 30 minutes of brisk walking on days you haven’t been too active is all it takes. So go ahead and grab your dog, or some friends and get outside. Just a little fun fact- for every hour you spend exercising, you’ll add on about two extra hours to your life expectancy. And if you do the math – that can really add up!

To all of the women out there, take care of yourself and your heart. Although everyone can benefit from the lifestyle changes I’ve mentioned above, it’s especially important for women to take these changes into consideration. Incorporating these changes slowly can help them become part of your daily routine. That way, they won’t seem so overwhelming all at once. Above all else, always remember, if you or someone you love is experiencing any strange symptoms, don’t hesitate and get to the doctor right away. You’re body and you’re heart will thank you.

For more information:

https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/WomensHealthTopics/ucm117974.htm

https://www.goredforwomen.org

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