Did you know that 1 in 4 women that die yearly, die of heart disease? Dying from heart disease is more common for women than death from all cancers combined. Both men and women have heart attacks but women die from them more frequently than men.
Coronary artery Disease (CAD) is the most common form of heart disease and most common cause of heart attack. Angina is a type of CAD. It manifests as chest pain that occurs when the heart doesn’t get enough blood. It may feel like a squeezing pain in the chest or it can cause pain in the shoulder, arms, neck, jaw and back. Angina can also feel like indigestion. If you have angina, you are more likely to have a heart attack.
A heart attack occurs when an artery is mostly if not completely blocked and the heart is without the blood it needs for more than 20 minutes. Most common symptoms of a heart attack are pain or discomfort in the chest, pain in the arms or jaw, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting. Women are more likely than men to have nausea and vomiting, and pain in the arms, back, in between the shoulder blades, neck or jaw rather than chest. Women are also more likely to have less common signs of a heart attack such as heart-burn, coughing, loss of appetite, and feeling tired.
African American women and Hispanic women tend to have more risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes, than Caucasian women. Other risk factors such as smoking, family history and lifestyle habits leading to high blood pressure also determine heart attack risk. Prevention is a key factor when it comes to eluding heart disease
Having high blood pressure is a major risk factor in developing CAD. Years of high blood pressure can lead to heart disease. It is important to check your blood pressure every 1 to 2 years because sometimes high blood pressure has no symptoms.
I have had customers present to the pharmacy with headache and /or dizziness and when they check their blood pressure, it reads high. I ask questions to help determine reasons why their readings may be high and if they need further evaluation by a doctor. I recently had a Caucasian woman in her early 40’s check her blood pressure at the pharmacy. Her reading was 200 over 100. I asked her how she felt and she said “fine”. She did not have symptoms. This fact is worrisome because her blood pressure could have been elevated for a long time. That kind of pressure on the heart is dangerous. I advised her to see her primary doctor as soon as possible to get evaluated and treated.
A blood pressure reading is considered normal when it is less than 120/80. Many pharmacies have blood pressure machines that the public can use located near the pharmacy. There are blood pressure record cards there as well so you can keep track of your figures and present the readings to your doctor at your next office visit. Readings over time can give your doctor a more complete picture of your heart health. If a reading is high, it may be helpful to jot down reasons for the change such as, “I had extra salt today” or “today was more stressful than usual”. Ask your pharmacist what your number means and if you should see a doctor for further assessment.
Reducing salt intake is another way to stay heart healthy. You should eat no more than 2300 milligrams (mg) of salt per day (= 1 teaspoonful). Sea salt has less sodium than table salt (5 grams vs. 6 grams). Avoiding processed foods such as frozen dinners or canned vegetables and soups will decrease your salt intake. Instead eat fresh veggies and use herbs and spices for flavor rather than adding salt. Restaurant meals can be loaded with salt so choose wisely on Valentine’s Day and when eating out.
If you have high blood pressure, simple lifestyle changes may be enough to lower your blood pressure. If you smoke, STOP! Maintaining a healthy weight and increasing physical exercise are also ways to stay heart healthy. If these changes alone do not decrease your blood pressure, then your health care provider may recommend medication to lower your blood pressure. There are many types of medication for blood pressure. You can talk to your pharmacist about which one may be right for you. Stay healthy in 2013.
- Vanessa Andricola, B.S., Pharm, D.