Symptoms of a heart attack
One of the problems is that the symptoms of a heart attack are often different in women. In contrast to the classic chest pain and pain down the arm that men describe, women may experience shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, back or jaw pain, pain in the lower chest or upper abdomen, dizziness, extreme fatigue or a feeling that your heart is racing.
If you experience such symptoms or feel any unusual pain, it's essential that you seek medical help. Women often ignore the feeling, or attribute them wrongly to something less serious such as reflux or indigestion. Failure to get a correct diagnosis and treatment can be fatal so it’s essential that you err on the side of caution.
Know Your Risk
There are some risk factors for heart disease that are out of your control, but it’s still important you know what these are.
Age is one such factor. As we get older the arteries supplying blood to the heart are more likely to have narrowed due to atherosclerosis and the heart muscles tend to stiffen, making it harder for the heart to pump blood around the body. Post-menopause your oestrogen levels drop and this contributes to the rise in risk of heart disease as oestrogen is protective for the heart.
If you have a family history of heart disease you may have inherited a genetic predisposition that puts you at greater risk. While your ethnicity may also affect your risk. Indigenous Australians and those with African or Asian ancestry have an increased risk of heart disease.
While we can’t do anything about these risk factors, there are many others that we can do something about to dramatically lower the risk of heart disease.
Here are my top tips to reduce your risk:
- Quit smoking
Smokers are 2-4 times more likely to develop heart disease compared to non-smokers. Be aware that if you are taking the contraceptive pill, smoking is especially hazardous. Fortunately, the harmful effects on your body from smoking can be reversed very quickly when you quit. For more information and free help to quit check out the Australian Government website Quitnow.
- Maintain a healthy weight
The riskiest body fat is that around your middle. Measure your waist circumference and if above 88cm you are at a greatly increased risk of heart disease. Ideally you want your waist to be below 80cm. If you need to lose weight start making small changes to your eating and lifestyle habits. Over time these small changes build up to deliver big results. For help in losing body fat and keeping it off for the long term, join our growing community at Get Lean - my online lifestyle change program.
- Manage your blood pressure
High blood pressure puts immense strain on your heart and damages blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Manage your blood cholesterol profile
In general terms you want low LDL-cholesterol, high HDL-cholesterol and low triglycerides. More sophisticated new blood tests may also look at small dense LDL or oxidised LDL as these are more indicative of risk.
There is much you can do from a dietary perspective to improve your blood cholesterol profile and one such factor is to consume more soluble fibre. You may have heard of oats being great for reducing blood cholesterol and that’s down to the presence of a special soluble fibre called beta-glucan. Oats are indeed a fabulous food to include in your diet, however it can be hard to eat enough to get the amount of beta-glucan you need to gain the full benefit.
This is where BetaHeart is just the ticket. Just one sachet has the 3g of beta-glucan scientifically proven to help reduce blood total and LDL-cholesterol. All you need do is drink one sachet daily in water, milk or add it to a smoothie.
- Be more active & sit less
Aim for at least 30 mins of physical activity every day and break up the time you spend sitting. Spending more than 8 hours a day on your bum is now recognised as an independent risk factor – scientists are saying “sitting is the new smoking”!
- Spend time with family and friends
Depression and social isolation are risk factors for heart disease.
- Manage your diabetes
If you have diabetes be aware that this increases your risk of heart disease. By managing your diabetes as well as possible you can keep this risk down. BetaHeart is ideal for those living with diabetes. It has no added sugar, it’s low GI and will actually help with blood glucose control as the soluble fibre slows down the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrates in your food.
So ladies please don’t fall into the trap of thinking heart health is only a concern for men. We have to aware of our risks and do all we can do to keep ourselves healthy. You’ll find more information on the Heart Foundation’s website and at the not-for-profit movement Her Heart.
You can purchase Betaheart from pharmacies including Priceline, Blooms and Chemmart. Click here for a full list of stockists.