February 16, 2004
Teens are often the ones accused of thinking themselves immune to
the statistics. Parents and doctors have concerns, and then complain
that the teens don't seem to take those concerns seriously. The
concerns are real. The statistics are real, and teens are not the
only ones who are accused of ignoring them.
The statistics record that:
"Cardiovascular disease claims more women's lives than the
next seven causes of death combined--nearly 500,000 women's lives
While more women are realizing
that heart disease is a threat, very few still view it as a personal
In 1997 the Heart Association
found that 30 percent of women listed heart disease as women's leading
cause of death. But the latest survey of more than 1,000 women found
that 46 percent now know the risk--an improvement, but still fewer
than half of those surveyed. 'However, when asked what they consider
their own greatest health risk, only 13 percent of respondents cited
A nationwide campaign has
been launched to try to get women to see heart disease as a serious
"The campaign is especially
aimed at women ages 40 to 60, the time when a woman's risk of heart
disease starts to rise. But its messages are also important for
younger women, since heart disease develops gradually and can start
at a young age--even in the teenage years. Older women have an interest
too--it's never too late to take action to prevent and control the
risk factors for heart disease. Even those who have heart disease
can improve their heart health and quality of life."
Chances are you know a
woman between the ages of 40 and 60, or at least a woman who is
older or younger. Maybe you are a younger woman (or teen); maybe
you have a mother, sister, aunt, grandmother, or even teacher who
is a woman that would benefit from this message.
So what is the message?
What do you (and the women in your life) need to know?
"Heart disease is
the number one killer of women in the United States, claiming one
in three women's lives. Many women believe that heart disease is
a man's disease, so they fail to perceive it as a serious health
threat. Women's heart disease symptoms may be different than men's
symptoms, so women often ignore the symptoms that may cause serious
health problems. For example, a woman might experience a severe
migraine headache or an upset stomach. Heart disease in women often
leads to significant health problems, including heart attacks, stroke,
and even death.
Symptoms of heart trouble
in women (such as "a severe migraine headache or an upset stomach")
are often different than those in men and are more likely to be
"Women are less likely
to survive heart attacks than men. No one knows why. It may be that
women don't seek or receive treatment as soon as men. Or it may
be because women's smaller hearts and blood vessels are more easily
damaged. Doctors are working on finding answers to these questions.
There's no question, however, that it makes sense to prevent heart
problems before they start."
Aside from trying to pay
attention to--and take seriously--a heart problem when it does show
itself, what can be done to put off it's arrival and keep the heart
as healthy as possible?
is mostly preventable, so understanding these serious health threats
can make a lifesaving difference. Much more research needs to be
done on heart disease in women. But there's valuable information
available to you now. It's also available for men and children.
So be empowered--educate yourself and your family."
"So be empowered--educate
yourself and your family."
"Heart disease and stroke--the principal components of cardiovascular
disease--are the first and third leading causes of death in the
United States, accounting for nearly 40% of all deaths. About 950,000
Americans die of cardiovascular disease each year, which amounts
to one death every 33 seconds. Many people believe that heart disease
and stroke primarily affect men and older people, but they are the
leading causes of death for both men and women. Although these largely
preventable conditions are more common among people aged 65 years
or older, the number of sudden deaths from heart disease among people
aged 15-34 has increased. Moreover, deaths are only part of the
picture. About 61 million Americans (almost one-fourth of the population)
live with cardiovascular disease. Coronary heart disease is a leading
cause of premature, permanent disability in the U.S. workforce.
Stroke alone accounts for disability among more than 1 million Americans.
Almost 6 million hospitalizations each year are due to cardiovascular
"For both men and
women, the biggest factors that contribute to heart disease are
smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and
age. Take a moment to look at your lifestyle, family history and
your general health. With this information, you and your family
doctor can assess your risk and make a plan to avoid potential problems.
Although you can't do much about your family history or your age,
you can make lifestyle changes to avoid many of the other risk factors...
you stop smoking, you can lower your risk of heart attack by one
third within 2 years. Women who smoke and use birth control pills
increase their risk even more.
"Control your blood
pressure....Losing weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy
diet are all ways to help control high blood pressure. Reducing
how much salt you consume can also help....
"Control your cholesterol
level. If you don't know your level, ask your doctor to check it.
Diet is a key part of lowering high cholesterol levels....
"Maintain a healthy
weight. Extra weight puts strain on your heart and arteries....
Remember, your heart is a muscle. It needs regular exercise to stay
"Eat a low-fat diet....food
labels list nutrition information, including fat calories, many
cookbooks have heart-healthy recipes and some restaurants serve
"Take care of diabetes.
If you have diabetes, regular exercise, weight control, a low-fat
diet and regular doctor visits are important....
"Be aware of chest
pain....Be sure to contact your doctor if you suffer from pain in
your chest, shoulder, neck or jaw. Also notify your doctor if you
experience shortness of breath or nausea that comes on quickly.
"Know your family
history. Having a father or brother with heart disease before age
55, or a mother or sister with heart disease before age 65 are factors
that contribute to heart disease. Inform your doctor about your
The problem is real. It's
not just statistics.
Questions of the Week:
What can you do? What would it take for you to convince someone
in your life that this is a reality--and that it could happen to
them? What would it take for someone to convince you that it could
happen to you? Once they (or you) realize that this is a concern,
what can you do? What should you do?
Please email me with any
ideas or suggestions.
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum