Sheryl Kraft, a freelance writer and breast cancer survivor, was born in Long Beach, New York. She currently lives in Connecticut with her husband Alan and dog Chloe, where her nest is empty of her two sons Jonathan. Sheryl writes articles and essays on breast cancer and contributes to a variety of publications and websites where she writes on general health and wellness issues. She earned her MFA in writing from Sarah Lawrence College in 2005.Full Bio
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Since February is all about hearts, I think it's important to dispense some helpful advice.
Sorry, the advice is not for the lovelorn—that's for other experts—but for those of you who are concerned about the health of your heart.
And that should be all of us.
- Is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Yet, only a little over half of women are aware that it's the number one killer.
- Accounts for about one in every four female deaths
- Claims around the same number of lives each year of men and women in the United States, even though it's often thought of a "man's disease."
- Affects about 5.8 percent of all white women, 7.6 percent of black women and 5.6 percent of Mexican American women.
- Doesn't always come with a warning: Almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease do not have any previous symptoms—and even if you have zero symptoms, you may still be at risk for heart disease.
Symptoms of Heart Disease
Sure, we read about them over and over again—but they bear repeating and refreshing, don't you think?
Heart disease symptoms can appear during rest or during physical activity and may be triggered by mental stress.
Look for these heart disease symptoms:
- Angina, which is chest pain that can be dull, heavy or sharp.
- Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper abdomen or back.
- Chest pain that is sharp or burning.
Sometimes, heart disease might not be diagnosed until something happens.
Be alert for these more serious signals:
- Signs or symptoms of a heart attack: Chest pain or discomfort, upper back pain, heartburn, indigestion, nausea or vomiting, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, or upper body discomfort.
- Arrhythmia: Feeling fluttering, or palpitations, in your chest.
- Heart failure: Shortness of breath; swelling of your feet, ankles, legs or abdomen; or extreme fatigue.
- Stroke: Sudden numbness or weakness in your face, arm or leg—especially on one side of your body; confusion, trouble with speech or understanding; sudden trouble with vision in one or both eyes; sudden trouble with walking; dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; sudden severe headache with no known cause.
This is not meant to scare you, but to inform you. As we get older, we need to be proactive and protective with our health!
Please take action to reduce your chances of getting heart disease:
- If you smoke, quit.
- Learn—and practice—good stress coping mechanisms.
- Make healthy food choices.
- Keep your weight at a healthy level—being overweight or obese raises your risk.
- Exercise regularly.
- Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
- Get your blood pressure checked regularly. Uncontrolled blood pressure is a risk for heart disease (and high blood pressure has no symptoms).
- Keep your cholesterol levels in a healthy range.
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