With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, our attention is turned toward matters of the heart — but not the most important one. While romance is important, heart health is a vital aspect of overall wellness and is woefully overlooked, especially among females. Many women don’t know the symptoms of heart disease when they appear, because they’re different and more subtle than the symptoms commonly recognized in men.
According to the Mayo Clinic, heart disease affects women of all ages and the symptoms can be somewhat silent or not what many women may normally associate with heart disease. The most common heart attack symptom in females is a type of pain or discomfort in the chest, though it is possible to have a heart attack without first sensing chest pain. Women may also experience seemingly unrelated symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sweating, unusual fatigue, abdominal discomfort or lightheadedness. Recognizing these symptoms can help women get early treatment that may save their lives.
This Valentine’s Day, make a promise to yourself that you’ll prioritize your heart health. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers the following advice to women looking to do just that.
A Heart-Friendly Diet
Thanks to food labels, it’s easier than ever for women to follow heart-healthy diets. When examining labels, look for foods that are low in sodium and sugar. When planning meals, avoid foods that are high in trans fats.
In 2015, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that trans fats were not recognized as safe for use in human foods and gave manufacturers three years to remove them from their products. The Cleveland Clinic advises consumers to check labels for “partially hydrogenated oils,” which are a hidden source of trans fats. In addition, the Cleveland Clinic notes that foods such as cakes, pies, cookies, biscuits, microwavable breakfast sandwiches and many types of crackers contain trans fats.
Certain conditions can increase a woman’s risk for heart disease. While women may not be able to turn back the clocks and prevent these conditions from developing, they can take them for the serious threat they are and do their best to manage them.
High blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol can increase a woman’s risk for heart disease. Take medications as directed, monitor blood sugar levels if you have diabetes and routinely have your blood pressure and cholesterol tested to ensure any preexisting conditions are not increasing your risk for heart disease.
The Food and Drug Administration notes that many physicians prescribe aspirin to lower patients’ risk of heart disease, clot-related strokes and other problems related to cardiovascular disease. However, there are risks associated with long-term aspirin use, and such risks should be discussed with a physician.
According to the FDA, bleeding in the stomach, bleeding in the brain, kidney failure and certain types of stroke are some of the potential side effects of long-term aspirin use. Such side effects may never appear, but the risk that they might makes discussing the pros and cons of aspirin well worth it.
Women can learn more about heart disease by visiting fda.gov.