Get your heart checked for American Heart Month

Be aware of the number one killer of women this month--heart disease!

Yes, February is American Heart Month. Women will again “Go Red for Women” by wearing something red or special pin to raise awareness of heart disease, women’s no. 1 killer.

The American Heart Association’s campaign is a call to action for women to take charge of their heart health.

“The campaign’s aim is to empower women to take charge of their heart health, make it a top priority and live a stronger, longer life,” says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

Cardiovascular diseases claim more women's lives than the next seven causes of death combined. “That’s about 500,000 lives a year,” Reames says.

A special red dress pin available from the association can be worn to show support for women affected by heart disease and stroke.

American Heart Association data reveals that:

– Heart disease and stroke are the no. 1 and no. 3 killers of American women over age 25.

– Heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more than 500,000 women each year – about one death a minute.

– 1 in 29 women dies of breast cancer. About 1 in 2.4 women dies of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.

– 1 in 5 women has some form of cardiovascular disease.

– 63 percent of women who die suddenly of heart disease have no previous symptoms.

– Black and Hispanic women have higher risk factors than white women of comparable socioeconomic status.

The campaign has three basic health messages:

1. Know your risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking and high blood pressure.

2. Reduce your risk.

– Maintain a desirable weight. Keep body mass index (BMI) below 25 and waistline less than 35 inches.

– Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.

– Don’t smoke; if you do, stop.

– Eat a balanced diet (fruits, vegetables, cereal and grain products, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, legumes, nuts, fish, poultry and lean meat).

– Maintain a total cholesterol level under 200 and an HDL level of 50 or higher.

– Control your blood pressure. Try to keep it below 120/80.

– Schedule regular visits with your doctor.

3. Know the warning signs of heart attack. Call 911 immediately if any occur. Warnings include:

– Discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.

– Pain or discomfort in other areas of the upper body: one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.

– Shortness of breath: often comes along with chest discomfort, but it can occur before the discomfort.

– Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or light-headedness.

So take better care of your heart during Heart Month. After all, the life you save should be your very own!

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