Heart of the matter

Celebrate National Women’s Health Week

Women today are busy managing household duties, children, careers, relationships and ageing parents, to name a few of their roles. 

Often, women put the needs of others first while their own health is last on the to-do-list. 

Mother’s Day (8 May) signals the beginning of Women’s Health Week, a nationally recognised week designed to promote women’s health. This year’s theme, It’s Your Time, is an important reminder to all women to make their health a priority including their heart health.

Many women believe heart disease is a ‘man’s disease’. However, research reveals heart disease is the largest single cause of death among women in the Western world, accounting for one-third of all deaths.  In the US, one in four women die from cardiovascular related deaths compared to one in 30 deaths secondary to breast cancer. 

Despite this depressing statistic, women still tend to underestimate their personal risk for heart disease and do not prioritise it among their personal health concerns or realise the potential impact it has on their families.   

Denial is easy

It’s easy to think heart problems are only for older women as most women are diagnosed in their post-menopausal years.

Be proactive

It is never too early or too late to take a proactive role in your heart health. How you choose to live in your 20s and 30s greatly affects the outcome of your heart health in later years. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women over the age of 35.

Ignoring troublesome symptoms and personal risk factors now can have devastating effects later.

Women are good at taking care of the outside. It’s time to pay attention to the inside by taking personal ownership of your health, knowing your risk factors, and taking action to reduce these risks.

Ask yourself these questions:
Do I smoke?
Do I have high blood pressure?
Do I have high blood cholesterol?
Am I overweight?
What is my waist circumference?
Am I physically inactive?
Do I have diabetes?
Other risk factors include: Lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic syndrome, pregnancy complications (high blood pressure, diabetes or delivering a pre-term infant), radiation or chemotherapy for cancer. Take action to reduce your risk, as 85 per cent of heart disease can be prevented, but it is up to you. 
Start with a personal commitment to choose a diet low in fat, cholesterol and sugar but high in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, and lean protein.
Be more conscious of portion control.
Walk at least 10,000 steps per day.
Stop smoking.
Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
Manage emotional stress.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Maintain a healthy waist circumference (less than 35 inches).
The heart truth is being heart healthy never goes out of style. Small steps can make a life saving difference.

Jodie Kelley, RN, is a heart health education and programme coordinator based in the Cayman Islands.