A couple of the most common myths are that heart disease is
more common in men than women, and that the first signs of a heart
attack are the same for both men and women, says Dr. Mary Ann
McLaughlin, medical director of the cardiac health program at The
Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in men and women
in the United States, affecting both sexes relatively equally.
"Women are more afraid of dying from cancer," says McLaughlin. "But
in fact, they are much more likely to die from heart disease."
Also, the first signs of a heart attack can manifest themselves
in different ways between men and women. While both men and women
can experience the more well-known symptoms like chest pain or
tightness and a shooting pain in the left arm, here are the most
common differences in symptoms by sex, according to McLaughlin.
The more obvious symptoms are more prevalent in men, which might
be why research shows that men go to the emergency room with
symptoms much earlier in than women.
More subtle symptoms are more likely in women. These include
shortness of breath, sweating or dizziness, nausea, severe fatigue,
sudden sleep disturbances, pain radiating through the jaw, small of
the back or between the shoulder blades.
"Women with diabetes are about twice as susceptible to heart
attacks as men with the condition," says McLaughlin. "Increased risk
factors for women also include having an autoimmune disorder and a
history of gestational diabetes or preeclampsia during pregnancies."
Knowing the first signs of a heart attack is important, but
reducing your risks for heart disease is the best way to avoid
experiencing one. McLaughlin offers the following tips for a healthy
intake. Limiting your consumption of processed foods can help
with this, as they are often high in salt.
Choose your fats
wisely. Use olive oil instead of butter, snack on nuts instead
of other sugary and high-fat snacks, and take supplements like
flax seed oil that can boost your levels of omega-3 fatty acids,
which can reduce artery inflammation. Consuming more omega-3s
can also help you reduce your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
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exercise. A good rule of thumb is when balanced with a proper
diet, 30 minutes of exercise a day will help you maintain your
current weight, while 60 minutes will help you lose weight. If
that seems like a lot, try to work exercises in to your daily
tasks by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking or
biking to work. Maintaining a healthy weight lowers your risk
for cardiovascular disease.
Ask your doctor
whether a daily regimen of low-dose aspirin would be appropriate
for you, as it could lower your risk of a heart attack.
Maintain a daily
intake of 1,000 mg of vitamin D, which can be found in some of
the same fatty fish that contain high levels of omega-3 fatty
acids. Vitamin D supplements can also help you achieve this, as
low levels are associated with heart disease and high blood
pressure. Exposure to sunshine also helps your body produce
vitamin D, but don't forget your sunscreen.
Know your numbers.
Your doctor can help you get your readings and give you advice
on how to meet the following goals for optimum heart health:
less than 200
cholesterol): less than 100
cholesterol): greater than or equal to 40
to HDL ratio: less or equal to 4.4 for women and less than or
equal to 5 for men
less than 150
less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic
glucose: less than 120
less than 100
less than 7
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from patients who have experienced heart disease, visit
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