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APU Diseases Editor's Pick Health & Fitness Original

National Wear Red Day: Improving Women’s Heart Health

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By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics

It’s time to wear your red — not just for Valentine’s Day, but also for National Wear Red Day on February 5, 2021. Typically held on the first Friday of American Heart Month, National Wear Red Day brings awareness of cardiovascular disease to the public.

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For millions of women in the United States, cardiovascular problems can take many forms, including heart disease and stroke. In fact, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 800,000 women annually. Heart disease and stroke also impact one in three women, meaning a third of mothers, sisters, wives, and friends.

Heart Disease Is a Leading Cause of Death for Women, so Be Sure to Talk to Your Doctor

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, heart disease was “the leading cause of death among women, and claimed more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined,” according to the American Heart Association. The pandemic has caused a decrease in the amount of people physically going into a doctor’s office, which may only suppress rather than amplify the importance of regular checkups.

Many doctors have switched to telehealth appointments, which in some cases can miss leading causes of heart disease if a healthcare provider fails to ask a patient the right questions. Ideally, all patients with upcoming telehealth appointments should document their list of symptoms, so that they can inform their doctor during a telehealth video call. For a patient, having a list of symptoms on hand could possibly help physicians with to an earlier detection of a patient’s heart-related illnesses.

The Symptoms of Heart Disease Are Not the Same for Everyone

Women and men have different experiences when it comes to heart disease. For example, women’s symptoms may present differently than men.

Talk show host Star Jones’ symptoms led to open heart surgery, and actress Susan Lucci had 90% blockage in one artery. Both celebrities were guests during the 2020 American Heart Association Go Red Day and described their symptoms of heart disease.

For women, symptoms involve fatigue, heart palpitations, a lack of deep sleep, mild discomfort in the chest/back, and excruciating pressure in the mid-section. Causes may come from excess weight or increased stress. In addition, lifestyle choices, such as improper diet and insufficient exercise, can lead to future cardiovascular problems.

Know Your Family’s Medical History and Take Other Actions to Improve Your Heart Health

Your family’s medical history is important. Genealogy carries full penetrants, so it’s important to understand if you and your family are predisposed to certain diseases.

Knowing your numbers includes the simple seven – different ways to improve your heart health. Actions you can take to improve your heart health include:

  • Getting regular screenings
  • Checking your genealogy
  • Controlling your cholesterol
  • Managing your blood pressure
  • Paying attention to changes in your body
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Investigating symptoms as soon as they occur

Diet and Exercise Play a Role in Heart Health

Both diet and exercise play an important role in heart health. Go Red for Women has information for how to make healthy food choices and how to utilize portion control. In addition, restaurants post the caloric intake for many menu items online, which can help you make wise food choices. You can also look up nutrition information at websites such as CalorieKing and MyFitnessPal (for convenience, both sites are also available as smartphone apps).

Scheduling exercise in your calendar can help make it a priority. Staying physically active can involve walking, taking the stairs, utilizing accountability partners when exercising and joining virtual gyms. Building in exercise into your daily routine can be a game changer.

Stretching and breathing are also integral to good physical health. Exercise manages stress and can decrease the need for medications.

Mental Health Has a Connection to Physical Health

Connectedness matters. Reaching out, volunteering and being a part of a community can help your mental state, which is related to your physical health. Social networks can help you connect in a safe, socially distant manner to counteract the effects of stress and loneliness.

Research Is Pivotal in Addressing Heart Disease

Research is a key tool to advance health improvements, and clinical studies need to include a broad array of participants. So consider joining the clinical study Research Goes Red.

The key to advocacy is spreading awareness of cardiovascular disease, so everyone understands the signs, symptoms and risk factors for heart disease and how it can be prevented.

It is important to eat less, exercise more and understand that heart disease can happen to any person, at any age, and of any ethnicity. Put yourself on your to-do list and visit the American Heart Association’s information pages to learn more about cardiovascular disease. And don’t forget to wear red on February 5 to raise awareness of heart disease both nationally and around the world!

Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Public University and has over 25 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. A Professor and STEM advocate, she is a renown global speaker and holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

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