February is Heart Healthy Month!

Friday, February 12 is Wear Red Day!!!

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Women and Heart Attacks

Heart attacks in women can have different causes and risks than in men, according to a new scientific statement. But most concerning to experts is that women are being undertreated.

Nearly 50,000 women died from heart attacks in 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Heart attacks occur when arteries that supply blood to the heart become partially or totally blocked, reducing blood flow and damaging the heart muscle.

The new statement from the American Heart Association is its first to address heart attacks in women.

Plaque, the gunky substance that clogs arteries and contributes to blood clots, forms differently in some women, said Laxmi Mehta, M.D., the statement’s lead author and director of the women’s cardiovascular health program at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus.

In certain women, especially younger ones, the plaque doesn’t bulge as much into the artery, making it less conspicuous and harder for doctors to diagnose on routine tests. But it can still form a blood clot and lead to a heart attack.

Stents may not be as effective in treating this type of less obstructive plaque, according to the statement. Alternative treatments, such as suctioning out a clot or delivering clot-busting medication directly to it, require more research, the authors said.

Even after a heart attack, women without significant obstructions in their arteries may not receive the medications and treatments they need, Mehta said

Some other differences between men and women include:

  • During a heart attack, women and men often feel chest pain, but women may experience uncommon symptoms such as back, arm, neck or jaw pain, or have nausea, weakness and a sense of dread.
  • Women wait longer to get treated – the median delay is about 54 hours in women and 16 hours in men.
  • Both sexes share heart attack risk factors, but Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are more potent for women.
  • Women who survive a heart attack are more likely to have complications in the hospital such as shock, bleeding or heart failure. Mehta said some physicians do not follow medical guidelines and some women do not take prescribed medications or participate in cardiac rehabilitation, which can result in long-term complications.
  • Depressed women have a 50 percent higher risk of heart attack. It’s unclear how depression raises risk, but Mehta said depressed patients are more likely to not follow a healthy lifestyle.

The statement also addresses racial differences among women.

Black women, for example, have more heart attacks than whites and are less likely to be referred for cardiac catheterizations or bypass surgery, important treatments for restoring blood flow to coronary arteries. Plus, black and Hispanic women are more likely to have heart-related risk factors such as diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

More research is needed to better understand heart attacks in women, Mehta said.

Women represent only about one in five participants in cardiovascular disease clinical trials, according to the statement. Considerable knowledge gaps remain, and poor outcomes for women “likely reflect both bias and biology,” the authors said.

“Research is power,” said Mehta. “It’s the only way for us to better understand heart attacks in women.”

Source: heart.org

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Heart Attack Signs in Women

Heart Attack Signs in Women

1. Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of your chest. It lasts more than a few minutes, or goes away and comes back.

2. Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

3. Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.

4. Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.

5. As with men, women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.

If you have any of these signs, call 9-1-1 and get to a hospital right away.

We’ve all seen the movie scenes where a man gasps, clutches his chest and falls to the ground. In reality, a heart attack victim could easily be a woman, and the scene may not be that dramatic.

“Although men and women can experience chest pressure that feels like an elephant sitting across the chest, women can experience a heart attack without chest pressure, ” said Nieca Goldberg, M.D., medical director for the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women's Health at NYU’s Langone Medical Center and an American Heart Association volunteer. “Instead they may experience shortness of breath, pressure or pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting, upper back pressure or extreme fatigue.”

Even when the signs are subtle, the consequences can be deadly, especially if the victim doesn’t get help right away.

‘I thought I had the flu’

Even though heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women in the United States, women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging.

“They do this because they are scared and because they put their families first,” Goldberg said. “There are still many women who are shocked that they could be having a heart attack.”

A heart attack strikes someone about every 43 seconds. It occurs when the blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or cut off completely. This happens because the arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow from a buildup of fat,cholesterol and other substances (plaque).

Many women think the signs of a heart attack are unmistakable — the image of the elephant comes to mind — but in fact they can be subtler and sometimes confusing.

You could feel so short of breath, “as though you ran a marathon, but you haven't made a move,” Goldberg said.

Some women experiencing a heart attack describe upper back pressure that feels like squeezing or a rope being tied around them, Goldberg said. Dizziness, lightheadedness or actually fainting are other symptoms to look for.

“Many women I see take an aspirin if they think they are having a heart attack and never call 9-1-1,” Goldberg said. “But if they think about taking an aspirin for their heart attack, they should also call 9-1-1.”

Take care of yourself. Heart disease is preventable.

Here are Goldberg’s top tips:

· Schedule an appointment with your healthcare provider to learn your personal risk for heart disease. You can also learn your risk with our Heart Attack Risk Calculator.

· Quit smoking. Did you know that just one year after you quit, you’ll cut your risk of coronary heart disease by 50 percent?

· Start an exercise program. Just walking 30 minutes a day can lower your risk for heart attack and stroke.

· Modify your family’s diet if needed. Check out these healthy cooking tips. You’ll learn smart substitutions, healthy snacking ideas and better prep methods. For example, with poultry, use the leaner light meat (breasts) instead of the fattier dark meat (legs and thighs), and be sure to remove the skin.

Source: heart.org

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Top 11 Heart-Healthy Foods

Many foods can help keep your heart at its best. Some help lower your blood pressure. Others keep your cholesterol in line. So add these items to your shopping cart:

  • Salmon

This ocean-going fish is a top choice because it’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. “Omega-3s have an anti-clotting effect, so they keep your blood flowing,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, RD, Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. They also help lower your triglycerides (a type of fat that can lead to heart disease).

Aim for at least two servings of oily fish each week, says the American Heart Association. A serving is 3.5 ounces. That’s a little bit bigger than a computer mouse.

Other options: Tuna, trout, sardines, and mackerel.

  • Walnuts

Nibbling on 5 ounces of nuts each week may cut your risk of heart disease in half. Walnuts have lots of “good” fats. When you use these monounsaturated fats in place of saturated fats (such as butter), you cut your “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise your “good” HDL cholesterol.

Walnuts are also a good source of omega-3 fats. (They don’t have the same kind of omega-3s as fish, though.) Other options: Almonds, cashews, pistachios, flaxseed, and chia seeds.

  • Raspberries

These berries are loaded with polyphenols -- antioxidants that mop up damage-causing free radicals in your body. They also deliver fiber and vitamin C, which are both linked to a lower risk of stroke.

Other options: Any berries -- strawberries, blueberries, blackberries -- are great choices. Fruits and vegetables in general are excellent choices because of their nutrients and fiber.

  • Fat-Free or Low-fat Milk or Yogurt

“Dairy products are high in potassium, and that has a blood-pressure-lowering effect,” Johnson says. When you choose low-fat or fat-free dairy, you get little to no saturated fat, the kind of fat that can raise your cholesterol.

  • Other options: Most fruits and vegetables also have some potassium, Johnson says. Bananas, oranges, and potatoes are especially good sources.Chickpeas

Chickpeas and other legumes (lentils, other kinds of beans) are a top-notch source of soluble fiber -- the kind of fiber that can lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol. If you buy canned beans, look for low-sodium or no-salt-added varieties (sodium can raise your blood pressure). Rinse them in water to wash off any added salt.Other options: Eggplant, okra, apples, and pears are also good choices for soluble fiber.

  • Oatmeal

Oats have a type of fiber (called beta-glucan) that lowers your LDL cholesterol. One and a half cups of cooked oatmeal or a little over a cup of cooked barley gives you the amount of beta-glucan you need daily to help lower your cholesterol.

Other options: You can also find beta-glucan in barley, shiitake mushrooms, and seaweed.

  • Olive oil

A cornerstone of the traditional Mediterranean diet, olive oil is a great pick when you need to limit saturated fat (found in meat, whole milk, and butter). Fats from animal products, and trans fats (“partially hydrogenated oils”) raise your “bad” cholesterol and can make fat build up inside your arteries.

Other options: Canola oil and safflower oil.

  • Dark Chocolate

Cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, is rich in flavanols, which can help lower your blood pressure and prevent blood clots. It also acts as an antioxidant, which can keep “bad” cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls.

Choose dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa) to get more flavanols and less sugar, Johnson says. (Sugar raises your risk of heart disease.)

Other options: Think beyond the bar. Choose natural cocoa powder over Dutch-processed to get more flavanols. (Check the label to make sure you don’t get too much sugar.) For a totally unsweetened take, try cacao nibs. Add them to your granola.

  • Avocados

These fruits get their creamy texture from “good” (monounsaturated) fats, which lower your “bad” cholesterol.

“They also seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, so you don’t get chronic inflammation that makes atherosclerosis -- the hardening of artery walls -- worse,” Johnson says.

Use mashed avocado as a spread in place of butter, or add cubes of it to salad, or over black bean chili. As delicious as they are, avocados are high in calories, so keep your portions modest.

Other options: Nuts and sunflower oil.

  • Unsalted almond butter

Nut butters are great on whole-grain toast instead of butter. They’re a wonderful source of monounsaturated fatty acids. Use unsalted, natural options to avoid added salt, sugar, and hydrogenated fats found in other forms of peanut butter, Johnson says.

Other options: Unsalted peanut butter or any other unsalted nut butter.

  • Red Grapes

These juicy fruits have resveratrol, which helps keep platelets in your blood from sticking together.

That may partly be why red wine -- in moderation (1 glass for women, 2 for men) -- may have some heart-healthy advantages over other types of alcohol. But health experts don’t recommend that anyone start drinking, because alcohol does have some health risks.

Love your nightly glass of wine? You can ask your doctor to make sure your serving size is OK for you. And feel free to go for grapes straight from the vine anytime.

Other options: Black grapes.

WebMD Feature

Jennifer Ilgenfritz, CPT, BS in Kinesiology

Physical education teacher and coach

Carpenter Middle School