February is heart health month, so today I'm kicking off a series of blog posts dedicated to the one part of our bodies we really need to pay attention to so we can stay healthy on all levels.
It is right in the middle of our chests: our hearts.
Women Are Strong and Capable
Women are often so focused on taking care of others and “making it all happen” that it's easy to put ourselves last.
Women are more likely than men to dismiss the symptoms that come on before a severe heart attack. Because of this they often do not get treatment that could save their heart and life.
What is “heart disease”?
Heart disease is really a broad term, anything that affects the hearts structure or function is considered “heart disease”.
Coronary heart disease is when the heart cannot deliver enough blood to the heart muscle itself. This is they type of heart disease that is still the number one leading cause of death in women.
Below are the most common signs that women experience. You may have only one of these symptoms. The important thing is to get yourself checked out if you have any concerns that you may be experiencing symptoms of a heart attack.
Heart Attack Symptoms for Women
- Chest pain: A sense of tightening, squeezing, and/or fullness anywhere in the chest. This could just be a subtle sensation, not like the classic chest-grabbing, falling-to-the-ground type of pain men usually experience. It’s easy for women to discount their chest-tightening as a sign of something besides cardiac ill health.
- Pain in the neck, jaw, arm, or back. This symptom is more common in women than men. The pain can come on gradually, all of a sudden, or may wax and wane.
- Stomach pain/pressure. It may be a lot of pressure, or not that strong. Burning sensations are also common for women.
- Shortness of breath, like you just ran up a mountain, except you didn’t. Other symptoms, like light-headedness and nausea, may accompany shortness of breath.
- Cold sweat.
- Extreme fatigue: feeling too tired to get out of your chair, or having a sense of fatigue in the chest.
- An impending sense that something is wrong: Trust yourself! And get help!
The take-home here for us women: no matter how old you are, get a good cardiac evaluation.
Take Care of Yourself
- Introduce a cardiac protection plan based on your risks, labs, and symptoms. You will be preventing disease that may not hit for years.
- Trust yourself and listen to your body and your inner knowing.
- Give yourself and your body the love it needs; prioritize your self-care.
What is your next step in maintaining your heart health?
If we all spent just a bit more time taking care of ourselves, could we change the statistics? I am hopeful.
The studies really prove that simple changes in lifestyle make a big difference and lower our risk for heart disease.
From my heart to yours, let’s do this together!
I don’t know about you, but I have a lot I want to do yet on this beautiful planet!
In good health,
~ Dr Jenny Tufenkian ND
 “Coronary Heart Disease,” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-heart-disease
 Lisa Fields, “6 Symptoms of Women’s Heart Attacks,” WebMD, last reviewed February 25, 2015, https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/womens-heart-attack-symptoms#1
 M. Razavi, S. Fournier, D. S. Shepard, G. Ritter, G. K. Strickler, and W. B. Stason, “Effects of lifestyle modification programs on cardiac risk factors,” PloS ONE 9, no. 12 (2014): e114772. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0114772.
READ MORE IN THE HEART SERIES
The symptoms of a heart attack in women are different than they are in men. In women, heart attacks are often misdiagnosed and undertreated partly because of how we, as women, tend to dismiss our pain.