It is no secret that health care providers traditionally are more focused on providing care for patients than caring for themselves. Due to long work hours or other professional obligations, it is hard to carve out time for physical wellness. During a busy work day in the ER, it’s hard for me to eat healthy or have motivation to hit the gym after work. As providers, we work in a high stress environment and often are subject to levels of sleep deprivation. As committed as we are to our work and patients, we are not immune to the medical conditions that affect the majority of the general population.
We start this month with a special dedication to increasing awareness about heart disease and promoting knowledge about disease prevention, especially among women.
As a Maven in Medicine, it is important to stress that heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and is more deadly than all forms of cancer combined. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) an estimated 43 million women in the U.S. are affected by heart disease. Hence why the AHA launched the Go Red for Women campaign in 2003. The disease itself covers a spectrum of conditions that affect the heart muscle and blood vessels. Coronary heart disease has to do with the build of plaque in the arteries of the heart, this can cause narrowing of the blood vessels and can lead to blockages which make it harder for blood to flow. A clot can then develop which can result in a heart attack or stroke.
Naturally, I have seen my share of patients presenting to the Emergency Department because they are having a heart attack. For the fortunate ones, we are able to work fast with our team of Cardiologist to save their lives. But for countless others who present to the ER in full cardiopulmonary arrest, often times life saving interventions are unsuccessful. In the years I have been practicing, I have come to realize that heart disease is no longer a disease of the elderly. I have seen patients in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who were having heart attacks. Maybe it’s due to our modern diet and more sedentary lifestyle, but whatever the cause, the simple fact remains that heart disease is still a predominant cause of death in the country but it doesn’t have to be.
The take home message is that Heart disease is preventable. There are certain risk factors that increase your risk of heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, family history of heart disease, obesity and age. A few of the risks are called “Silent Killers”; just because you feel fine does not mean you are not at risk.
Signs of a heart attack include pain or discomfort in the chest. However, women are more likely to have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting shortness of breath, feeling of indigestion, lightheadedness, pain in the neck or back.
I encourage all Mavens and women everywhere to:
- Make an appointment with your doctor (Schedule your “Well-Woman Visit”) to assess factors that increase your risk for heart disease
- STOP smoking
- Control your blood pressure
- Control your diabetes
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Find out your cholesterol levels so you can lower them
- Start a healthy eating lifestyle
- Stay active and exercise
Visit Go Red for Women learn more about heart disease prevention and to donate.
National Wear Red Day is Friday, February 5, 2016