By

Sandra Chaloux

| 03/28/2017

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 4

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 4

Do You Know the Signs For Heart Trouble in Women?

There were so many good questions and answers after the Healthy Heart, Healthy You panel presentations, that I want to pass the information along. This post includes info about the signs to be aware of for heart attack and stroke and self-care recommendations for women.

Q. If somebody is having a stroke or a heart attack in the middle of a meeting or conference, what are the first thing they should do? 

A: Shondra: Don’t drive yourself or wait for someone to drive you to the hospital if you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke. Call 911. Paramedics can start care immediately. They can get the aspirin in, they can get the EKG done, which is transferred to the hospital, mobilize the team so that when you get to the hospital, you will be brought right into the cath lab, to get that artery open.

Going back to signs you’re having a heart attack. Women are very different than men. Men, I tell you, they act like they’re dying. Men seek help sooner because their pain is so exaggerated (real or perceived). They just seek help sooner than women. Women, tend to say “I’m so tired. Why is my shoulder bothering me? My neck, there’s a crook in my neck, or I don’t know why I’m nauseous. Maybe I ate something bad earlier, or I’m short of breath because I’m not conditioned, I’m not working out enough, I’m not doing this.” Women make theses excuses. Well, those are signs of a heart attack for women. They’re very, very clear.

When we hear things like that we say, “get yourself into the ER immediately”. Get the EKG so we can see exactly what’s going on. Yes, women and men are different, that’s why more women die of heart disease than any cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and when I say cancer I include breast cancer too. Heart disease kills over 400,000 women a year in the United States.

To put that into perspective for you, there are over 370,000 people who live in Loudoun proper, in the county of Loudoun. That’s every man, woman, and child. Can You imagine every man, woman, and child eradicated in Loudoun county? That’s how many women die every year. Some of it’s unnecessary because they don’t know the signs of a heart attack. They don’t know they’re at risk, they don’t know that if they wait five more minutes or 10 more minutes, it could mean your life.

Q. What self-care things should women be doing to take care of their heart heath? We heard from Carolyn about the importance of getting enough sleep, pausing, and saying no, and from Susan about being aware of your body. What other self-care practices can we do to keep our heart healthy?

Susan: First of all, welcome to the first meeting of co-dependency anonymous. Moderator: Very happy to lead the group. I think we can all raise our hand on that one, right?

Here’s what I’m learning about self-care or even just wellness in general. That so many of us who think that if we knew better, we would do better, right? We think well it’s about education. If we just tell people what to do, they’re going to follow it, but how many people here know what you’re supposed to eat, how much you’re supposed to sleep, how much movement and exercise you should have? We know these things. But there’s something inherently in us that’s not allowing us to do it.

It’s a behavioral issue, right? So it is important to really start becoming aware of these behaviors, thoughts and beliefs that are keeping you from self-care: diet, nutrition, exercise, sleep. I was the 6 hour a night sleeper. I’m convinced now that those last two hours are the most important. It’s when your body does the most of its repair. Quite honestly, it’s the most critical portion of the sleep cycle, and so many of us are robbing ourselves. I talk to so many people that say, “Oh, I don’t need eight hours. I do just fine”, and I’m like, “Really? Let’s take a look at your numbers and see what’s been going on”, and they find out that they’re really not doing that well. But when we’re approaching this, we look at it behaviorally. We’re looking at things like learning to be still, and we talk about things like a Digital detox (this really freaks people out). If you can’t pick a week to do it, take two days over the weekend to just see what happens when you actually disconnect.

There’s a whole lot of research studies coming out on the addiction of cellphones and screen time and all these things, and how it’s keeping our bodies kind of acting active, and it’s not allowing us to rest and be still. This whole concept of immediate gratification, I think, is not helping us as a society. So, it’s learning to be still and there’s this practice of mindfulness that many of us here know about and talk about, but it’s learning to be still without freaking out. My husband tried to do Yoga. In five minutes, he went running out.

So, learning mindfulness, digital detoxes, and social connections, I think, are super important too. So, find people that you can connect with that raise you up and make you feel good, and those that don’t, aren’t worth your time.

Stephanie: From a nutrition standpoint. Don’t beat yourself up. If you want the cupcake, eat the cupcake. Everyday? Probably not. Being mindful of what you are doing. We’re all human, can’t compare yourself to the person sitting next to you, and you can’t compare yourself to everything that society’s putting in place. No one is perfect. It’s more about listening to your body, and what works for you, because a nutrition plan that works for you may not work for your husband or your sister or your best friend. So, it’s all about just trying to be in tune with your body.

Q. What are the preventative tests or how often should you see your Primary Care doctors or specialists around our heart health?

A. Shondra: So, you should really know your numbers. That’s the first thing you should know. They should know their blood pressure, their top number, the systolic number, and your bottom number is diastolic. People focus a lot on the top number, the systolic number; but your diastolic number is very important because that’s what’s happening when your heart is at rest. If you’re blood pressure is high when your heart is at rest, you have a problem. Okay, so, they should know what their cholesterol is. They should know that your LDL’s should be less a 100. That’s your bad cholesterol, and that your HDL, that’s your good cholesterol, should be more than 60. Your triglycerides should be less than 100. They should know if they have Diabetes.

I see people at the hospital all the time and say, “Hey, you have Diabetes” and they say, “No, I don’t” and I say, “Yes, you do. You’ve probably had Diabetes a very long time and didn’t know it.” So, knowing your hemoglobin A1C number. You want to know what your BMI (Body Mass Index) is. That’s a big one. If you are obese or overweight, this is a modifiable change. There are certain things that you can do in order to reduce your risk. I read in a newspaper not long ago, that a sedentary lifestyle, or sitting at a desk all day, is equivalent to smoking.

So, we have to stay mindful and take care of our own bodies. We do live in an area here where we are seeing a lot of younger people who have Heart Disease or have had a Stroke. We’re seeing people having heart attacks at 40, 45 years old. Women who are in “Menstruating age”, and should be protected by their hormones, but they aren’t. So, we encourage people to get tested and consider your family history. If you’re obese, if you have high blood pressure, you know you have high cholesterol, go see a Cardiologist. Advocate for yourself. Be your own advocate.

If you have a family history of Premature Heart Disease (someone less than the age of 70 years old in your family who’s had Heart Disease and has suffered a heart attack) to go see a Cardiologist. Studies show that women who are under the age of 45, who have their first heart attack before the age of 45, will subsequently have another heart attack and they will die from it. So, prevent that the best you can.

There will be one more blog post in the Healthy Heart, Healthy You blog post series which includes the Questions from the audience and answers from the panel.

What is the one thing you want to do now for your own self-care to prevent a heart attack or stroke?

Check out our other blog posts from the Healthy Heart, Healthy You Panel Discussion:

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 1 (for women): The Statistics, Heart Conditions Explained, Nutrition & Dietary Recommendations, Successful Business Woman Wake Up Call Story & Lessons Learned

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 2: Story from a 3-time stroke survivor at age 39

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 3: How Emotions Affect Heart Health

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 4: Do you know the Signs of Heart Trouble in Women? Self-Care Tips & Preventative Tests

Healthy Heart, Healthy You – Part 5: Miscellaneous Q & A

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