Be heart conscious

Published 10:12 pm Saturday, February 5, 2011

Red and walking: From left, Lake Prince Woods residents Joyce Taylor, Alese Hazelwood and Judene Hartless take part in the Wear Red and Walk event at Lake Prince Woods on Friday. The event was held to raise awareness for women’s heart health.

February is American Hearth Month, and the Lake Prince Woods retirement community on Friday made sure its residents took some steps to keep their heart healthy.

The community held a Wear Red and Walk event to raise awareness for women’s heart health.

“It’s a good reason to get out and walk,” said Joyce Taylor, resident at Lake Prince Woods.

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The residents walked as part of The Heart Truth and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute’s National Wear Red Day, held annually on the first Friday in February, to bring awareness to the number one killer of women — heart disease.

The second annual event at Lake Prince Woods featured light refreshments, an indoor group walk and an information session on heart statistics and symptoms of heart trouble.

“The minute I read that women don’t have the same symptoms for heart attacks that men do, I thought, ‘people need to know,’” said Denise Brown, director of resident services.

According to doctors, the most common and well-known symptom in women and men is chest pain or chest discomfort, but symptoms for women can also include pain that radiates to the extremities and jaw, shortness of breath, vomiting, fatigue that lasts for an extended period of time, abdominal pain and back pain.

The symptoms may include any combination of these symptoms; however, “Some people may just have one symptom,” said Dr. Nakela Cook, cardiologist and medical officer at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

When asked how a patient could distinguish between a toothache or stomachache and the symptoms of a heart attack, Cook said that many patients describe their jaw or abdominal pain as an unusual pain that has no other explanation.

It is commonly described as an odd pain or an ailment that didn’t seem normal, Cook said. When a pain is heart-related, it will often worsen with exertion. Climbing the stairs, for instance, may make the pain or discomfort worse.

Heart disease can affect women at any age.

“Young women are also burdened with this,” Cook said.

Statistics show that one in 19 women age 25 through 44 are living with heart disease, while one in nine women age 45 to 64 are living with heart disease. Additionally, in 2007, a quarter of women’s deaths were related to heart disease.

“Prevention is critical. The first step is to find your personal risk factors for heart disease,” Cook said.

It’s important to know your glucose, weight, body mass index, cholesterol and blood pressure numbers, she said.

“Have a discussion with your doctor about your numbers,” Cook said.

Research shows that major risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and triglycerides, diabetes or pre-diabetes, being overweight or obese, physical inactivity, a family history of early heart disease, age and a history of preeclampsia, Cook said.

The good news is that everybody has control over most of their risk factors.

“Work with your doctors and start to create an action plan to keep your numbers in a healthy range,” she said.

“There’s a lot women can do to prevent heart disease. There is a potential payoff of a healthy lifestyle,” she said.

People who eat right, exercise, manage their weight and discuss their risk factors with their doctor can lower their risk of heart disease by 82 percent.

Every woman should take their risk for heart disease seriously, Cook added.

“For young women, more than 60 percent have a risk factor they can change.”

More than 60 percent of young women have a risk factor they can change. About 80 percent of women ages 40 to 60 have a risk factors they can change.

“Since I have your ear, if you do smoke, quit!” she said. “It is a risk factor we have control over.”

“This is something we can do something about,” Cook added. “We have control over what our future predicts. We can do something about it every day of our lives.”