Being surrounded by red and pink hearts is a pretty good reminder that not only is February time for Valentine's Day, it's also American Heart Month. So what better time to brush up on a few heart-healthy facts?
Cardiovascular disease, unfortunately, can occur year-round, so it's important to know the symptoms.
Men and women tend to show different signs, and women are typically more likely to downplay their discomfort, helping to make heart disease the No. 1 killer of women and the leading cause of all death in the United States. Every 40 seconds, someone has a heart attack, and someone dies from it every 37 seconds.
Worried you might be at risk? Take Methodist Health System's heart health assessment, which identifies medical or lifestyle conditions that may lead to development of the disease.
It also provides your "Heart Age" based on risk factors and lays out suggestion on how to better improve your cardiovascular system, including the many services available from Methodist Health System.
Manavjot Sidhu, MD, medical director of non-invasive cardiology and a Methodist Medical Group cardiologist, says that men and women both can experience chest pain like severe pressure in the chest. Women, however, can also experience symptoms like:
- Shortness of breath
- Pain in the jaw or neck
- Upper back pressure
- Unusual fatigue
Research by the National Institutes of Health also indicates that women may experience symptoms long before a heart attack, as much as two years before.
Men's symptoms tend to be more traditionally recognized, and can include:
- Crushing chest pain
- Squeezing, discomfort, or fullness in the chest
- Pain in the arm, jaw, or back
- Shortness of breath
- Cold sweat
Christine Liu, MD, a Methodist primary care physician, says that people can lower their risk of heart disease with simple lifestyle changes.
She advises everyone watch their cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood pressure, and work to improve these numbers if they are not normal; maintain an ideal body weight; stop smoking; choose a diet low in saturated fats, trans fats, and sodium; and eat whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
"One of the easiest things you can do is to get moving," she says. "Thirty minutes a day of walking — or even dancing — can improve your health by reducing your risk for heart disease and improving blood pressure. It’s one small step everyone can do."
Take the Methodist Heart Health Risk Assessment, then schedule an appointment with your doctor to make sure your ticker is in tip-top shape.