Heart disease and stroke, two of the leading cardiovascular diseases, are the number one and three killers of women. There is much you can do to prevent these diseases, but first you must know your risks.
The American Heart Association suggests that women ask their health care providers these 10 questions about heart disease and stroke. Once you know the answers, you can work with your doctor to develop a plan of action to reduce your risk of cardiovascular diseases.
1. What are my risk factors for heart disease?
Risk factors for heart disease include those you can change (high blood pressure, physical activity, high blood cholesterol and smoking) and those you can’t (age, gender and family history). Once you know which risks are greatest, your doctor can help you determine a plan to reduce your risk.
2. Am I at risk for stroke?
Some of the risk factors for stroke are the same as those for heart disease, but others, such as high red blood cell count, are different. Your doctor can help you determine if you are at risk of stroke and suggest ways to reduce your risk.
3. What are the warning signs or symptoms of heart attack and stroke?
Women may have different heart attack warning signs than men, such as nausea, dizziness or unexplained anxiety. Knowing the warning signs of heart attack and stroke will allow you to get help as early as possible.
4. What should I know about the effects of menopause on my health?
A woman’s risk of heart attack increases after menopause and continues to rise as she grows older. Talk with your doctor about the risks associated with hormone therapies.
5. Do I need to lose or gain weight for my health?
Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, even if it is your only risk factor. Your doctor can help you determine if your weight puts you at risk and help you design a sensible plan to manage it.
6. What is a healthful eating plan for me?
Healthy foods can protect you from obesity and help lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, but many times it’s confusing to know what is good for you. Your doctor can help you sort through the nutritional fiction and understand the facts.
7. What kind of physical activity is right for me?
Physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. Depending on your age and condition, your doctor can help you design the best exercise routine to condition your heart and lungs.
8. What is my blood pressure? Is that healthy for my age?
The only way to tell if your blood pressure is too high is to have it measured. If it’s too high, your doctor can help you treat it.
9. What is my cholesterol? Is that a healthy level?
High levels of LDL (bad cholesterol) raise your risk of coronary heart disease and heart attack. HDL (good cholesterol) seems to clear cholesterol out of your system. High levels lower your risk of heart disease.
10. Based on my history and risk factors, what can I do to lower my risk of heart disease and stroke?
Remember that when it comes to your health, there are no stupid questions. By asking the right questions, you can uncover the greatest threats to your health and do something before it’s too late.
Little Company of Mary offers a variety of treatment options for a range of cardiovascular conditions. If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with heart failure, our Heart Failure Clinic offers a multidisciplinary team of experts who helps patients monitor and manage their symptoms to live a better life.