Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. There are two main types of heart disease: hypertension (high blood pressure) and arteriosclerosis (blocked arteries). High blood pressure makes the heart work too hard to deliver blood to the body, and blocked arteries keep blood from reaching the heart. When blood can’t get to the muscle cells of the heart, they die. Blocked arteries are often the cause of heart attacks.

If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or you are more than 20 pounds overweight, you may be at increased risk for heart disease. If you smoke, your risk is far higher. You can quickly reduce your risk of having a heart attack by quitting smoking, changing your eating habits, exercising more, and reducing your stress.

It is important to know the signs of a heart attack, but even more important to realize that women do not often have the traditional symptoms of a heart attack.¬† While you should never ignore chest pain, if you are having¬† pain in the neck or shoulder, or pain radiating up the neck, or even if you simply feel suddenly nauseous and out of breath, do not ignore your body’s communication. It’s better to get checked out than ignore a life-threatening episode.

The best way to avoid heart disease is by improving your diet. Reduce your fat intake and eliminate trans fats from your diet. Add more fiber by eating plenty of fruits and veggies and switching to whole grains. Reduce your sodium intake and eat two to three servings of heart-healthy fish each week.

Even if you don’t have a lot of time to exercise, small bouts of exercise can be very effective at improving your health. The most recent studies show that women who jog or walk rapidly for even ten minutes can have a dramatic impact on their health and heart.

If you believe you are having a heart attack, call 9-1-1. While waiting for the ambulance, put an aspirin under your tongue. This can help protect your heart until emergency personnel arrive by thinning the blood so that it can pass through partially blocked arteries. You should also force yourself to cough, as coughing compresses the chest to keep your heart pumping.

Learn more about protecting your health at the American Heart Association.