Heart Health How To’s for Women & Men
February is American Heart Health Month.
It is no secret that women and men have different experiences when it comes to the heart. But, we are not referring to romance. Symptoms of heart health problems in women can be subtle. It is important that we are aware of what heart problems can look like in women, as well as in men.
The American Heart Association says that women and their doctors often dismiss, or overlook heart attack symptoms. For instance, a woman might experience symptoms like nausea and stomach discomfort, or pain in the jaw, neck, or back when she is having a heart attack.
It is important to be aware of these differences so that we can better help women identify a heart attack, and get to care as quickly as possible.
Because heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, it is important to incorporate heart healthy behaviors in our everyday lives.
Heart Healthy Hows To’s for Women
Stress can be a different experience for women.
Women are more likely to multitask, and play the role of caretaker. While caring for others can certainly be rewarding, it is not a job with steady hours, and a reliable workload. Constant multitasking, shouldering the burdens of others, and delivering care can be very stressful.
Beyond the mental stressors women face, women’s bodies also respond to stress differently. The American Heart Association is pushing for deeper research to help us understand the role female hormones play in female heart health.
There are some specific actions that women should take now to support heart health:
- Be Social – Isolation increases stress levels, and can contribute to depression. Both are major factors for heart health. Find a support group, and allow yourself time to be with friends. You can talk about your problems, or just enjoy getting away from them for a while.
- Make Time for Yourself – Sure, we’ve all heard this a million times. But, researchers from the Mayo Clinic say that “Me Time” is a critical component for health. So, if you cannot make the 75-minute yoga class for the umpteenth time, it’s okay. Do something small for yourself. Ideas include a walk around the block, warm bath, sitting alone for five minutes, and listening to some favorite songs. These small things can make a big difference on days when your plans fall flat.
- Breathe – One of the first responses our bodies have to stress is shallow breathing. When the wall of overwhelm hits you, stop. That’s right; stop for a moment. Allow yourself five, 4-7-8 breaths. Inhale for a count of four. Then, hold the breath for a count of seven. Exhale to a count of eight.
Healthy Heart How To’s for Men
Heart health has been studied in men for decades. So, much of what we know about heart disease comes from research performed on men.
Often heart problems manifest through mental and physical stressors. While having a good diet and exercising regularly will always be cornerstones for good health, there are some actions men should take to better protect themselves against heart problems.
There are specific things men should do to support heart health:
- Go to the Doctor – Many men live with heart disease for years before having a heart attack. An annual physical can help you detect heart disease early. In addition, heart disease can often be reversed, or at least mitigated, with treatment and behavioral changes.
- Turn Off the TV – We have all seen him, or maybe you are him. That guy who sits on the sofa, watching the news cycle and yelling at the TV. While being informed is good, over consumption of negative information can aggravate your stress levels. So, if you need a little downtime choose a good book instead.
- Eat Your Veggies – Eating eight or more vegetables and fruits each day reduces your chances of getting heart disease by 30 percent according to the experts at the Harvard School of Public Health. So, make lunch or dinner vegetable-centric. Place fresh fruit out where you can see it. And, each time you visit the grocery store, pick up one new vegetable to try.
Heart Health How To’s for Everyone
Eating well, exercising, visiting your doctor, socializing, and giving yourself breaks to relax or meditate are all elements of good health. Here are some lesser known ways that everyone can use to improve heart health:
- Move Throughout the Day – For every 20 minutes you spend sitting, try to spend eight minutes moving. The movement does not need to be rigorous. Rather, simply walking around the house, wiggling your arms and legs, or shifting your weight when you stand will suffice.
- Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums – Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can increase your chances of contracting heart disease, some cancers, and diabetes. Gum disease is very common, and can be reserved with dental care. Please talk with your dental hygienist, and dentist about the health of your gums at your next visit.
- Sleep – When it comes to heart health sleep really matters. Getting more than seven hours of sleep each night will do your heart, body and mind a world of good. To ensure best sleep habits go to bed about the same time each night. When possible, have a quiet hour prior to your bedtime. Turn off all electronic devises. Partake in a relaxing activity. If you still have trouble sleeping, please talk with your doctor.