February is American Heart Month. LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames says this year’s campaign is a call to action for women to take charge of their heart health.
"During February, women throughout America will ‘Go Red for Women’ – this year’s theme – to raise awareness of heart disease, their number 1 killer," Reames explains.
The campaign aims to empower women to take charge of their heart health, make it a top priority and live stronger, longer lives.
A special Red Dress pin has been created to show support for women affected by heart disease and stroke. Friday, Feb. 6, is National Wear Red Day for Women. The association encourages everyone to wear red clothing on that day to show support of all women who have been touched by heart disease or stroke.
"Misperceptions still exist that cardiovascular disease is not a real problem for women," Reames says. Information from the American Heart Association shows:
• Heart disease and stroke are the number 1 and number 3 killers of American women older than age 25.
• Heart attack, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases kill more than 500,000 women each year – about one death per minute.
• One in 29 women dies of breast cancer. About one in 2.4 women dies of heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases.
• One in five women has some form of cardiovascular disease.
• Some 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.
Reames says the campaign has three basic health messages:
• Know your risk factors for heart disease and stroke, which include obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, physical inactivity, smoking and high blood pressure.
• Reduce your risk.
- Maintain a desirable weight; keep body mass index (BMI) below 25; 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.
• Know the warning signs of heart attack. Call 911 immediately if any occur.
- 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 lightheadedness.
For information on related family and consumer topics, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, log on to the Family and Consumer Sciences section under the Louisiana Cooperative Extension Service at the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.