February is nationally recognized as heart month. For that reason, Huntington Hospital has collaborated with the American Heart Association (AHA) to share lifesaving information about heart health – particularly women’s heart heath – through Go Red for Women ®, the AHA’s signature initiative designed to increase awareness. The initiative was galvanized by this critical fact from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the No. 1 killer of women; it claims more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined.
According to the AHA, women have unique cardiovascular risk factors. Following menopause, women’s CVD risk is higher, making good heart heath crucial before and during menopause. Also, pregnancy can lead to peripartum cardiomyopathy, stroke and heart attack. Not to mention, gestational hypertension, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes can increase a woman’s risk for CVD later in life.
Huntington-affiliated cardiologist and new mom, Kristal Young, MD, photographed here with her newborn, Kai, knows firsthand the importance of heart health even after the first moments of life. “I tell my patients, a healthy lifestyle is more than just a goal, it should be your number one priority. Now that I’ve become a mom, I’ve taken this to heart. I’m making every effort to staying active, watching my diet and salt intake and trying to get enough sleep – as much as possible with a newborn!”
Studies compiled by the AHA show how CVD negatively impacts women:
- Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of new mothers.
- Nearly 60% of stroke deaths are in women.
- Nearly 52% of deaths from high blood pressure are in women.
- Women in their 30s and 40s are more than twice as likely to die from
cardiovascular diseases than breast cancer.
- High blood pressure is the second leading cause of preventable heart disease and stroke death – second only to smoking.
- Black and Hispanic women are disproportionally impacted by heart disease and stroke.
- Although heart attacks are rising in younger women, Millennials and Gen Z are less likely to know that CVD is the No. 1 killer of women and the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes.
Ultimately, the AHA asserts that the majority of cardiac and stroke events can be prevented through education and lifestyle change. The AHA has made the following recommendations to prevent CVD:
- Know the key numbers that help determine your heart-disease risk: total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index.
- Know your family history and talk to your doctor about heart disease and stroke.
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (or a combination) per week and two days of moderate- to high-intensity muscle strengthening activity per week.
- Eat a healthy diet with no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt per day.
- Control blood pressure.
- Manage sleep and stress.
For more information about CVD and how to prevent it, visit: heart.org and goredforwomen.org. To learn about Huntington Hospital’s cardiology resources, visit: huntingtonhospital.org/our-services/cardiology.