take care of your heart

I found it poignant and creepy that Carrie Fisher passed away on my birthday after suffering cardiac arrest. Heart disease is a silent killer of women. Why? Because we insist we’re just fine even when we aren’t.

I know. I did just that.

Thankfully my loving husband ignored my “I’m fine” remarks and took me to the hospital. Because of him, I dodged the silent killer. I got to celebrate my last two birthdays.

That privilege, I’ve learned, comes with opportunities and obligations. Opportunities to live a life of purpose and an obligation (albeit a welcome one) to share, educate, and inspire.

So, about women and heart disease, here goes.

Risk factors

90 percent of women have at least one risk factor for heart disease that’s ignored. Think about your life. Feeling mental stress? Do heart problems run in your family? Feeling depressed? Do you smoke? Overweight? Is your diet convenient-food rich and fruit-and-veggie poor? Spend most of your day sitting at a desk?

A “yes” answer signals a risk factor to watch.

#1 killer

Cardiovascular disease and stroke, not breast cancer, is the number one killer of women, claiming one out of three women each year. While still serious, one out of every eight women develop invasive breast cancer across the course of their life.

One out every three women dying from a heart problem is a scary number. One that’s incredibly humbling as I nearly became one of those statistics.

Know the symptoms

Heart attack symptoms differ between men and women. Not knowing the difference isn’t uncommon. Even doctors mess up.

Women are seven times more likely than men to be misdiagnosed and sent home from the emergency room. Men’s symptoms—chest and arm pain—are widely recognized; women’s not so much. Women’s symptoms can include being extra tired for no apparent reason, experiencing unusual shortness of breath, feeling light-headed, or having pain in your neck, jaw or back.

I dismissed my episodes of dizziness and shortness of breath as signs of overwork and lack of exercise. That was almost a deadly mistake.

Know your numbers

If we run a company or a department, we know our metrics. We look at the numbers to know what’s going right and what needs attention. As women, we need to rattle off our blood pressure and cholesterol numbers just as easily as we do the bottom line business ones.

Not wanting the attention

Why do women continue to let heart disease be a silent killer? There’s many reasons.

We don’t want to make a fuss.

We don’t want to be selfish.

We don’t want to admit that something serious might actually be wrong with us.

If you’ve used any of these reasons to avoid acting, you have lots of female company. Women are far more likely than men to delay seeking medical treatment for heart conditions.

Share the love

Loving life and others starts with loving and taking care of ourselves.

February is heart health month.

To celebrate, start now. There’s no reason or excuse big enough not to act.

  • Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist. Now! Go even if you feel just fine. Don’t let a risk factor sneak up on you.
  • Encourage your gal pals to schedule appointments, too. Meet up for coffee after and compare notes. Hold each other accountable for self-care, for not downplaying symptoms, and for knowing your personal health numbers.
  • Tell yourself—every morning—that self-care isn’t selfish; it’s smart.

As a gift to yourself, your loved ones, and in honor of Princess Leia, just do it.

Life—with all its delicious and dizzying ups and downs—is why.


Image source:  Pixabay