The heart of a woman, 2011.
I wrote this a couple years ago over at Diabetes Daily in advance of Go Red for Women Day, a project of the American Heart Association to raise awareness of heart disease risk in women. I forgot to write a post when I wore red this year, though we all might as well think about our hearts on Valentine’s Day, right?
Long before type 2 diabetes became a concern for me, I knew my risk of heart disease had been increased as my father faced a heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery at age 49. Having a father or brother suffer a heart attack before age 55 (or a mother or sister before age 65) raises anyone’s risk for early heart disease.
Because of that, I have been having my cholesterol screened regularly since I was 18, about a year after my father’s heart disease arrived. Once type 2 diabetes entered the picture before my 29th birthday, I knew that my risk was even higher. While some of the changes I made focused on lowering blood sugar and blood pressure, others were focused on lowering cholesterol.
Along with watching carbohydrate intake and exercising regularly, I have minimized the amount of milk-based dairy I consume. It has made all the difference for my cholesterol numbers. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)
Even with all that knowledge, I sometimes forget that heart disease could be in my future. But recently, I was reminded that women do have heart attacks when the mother of a close friend experienced one.
It is extremely important for women to know that they can be victims of heart disease, too, particularly when they also have diabetes and/or hypertension. We must know the signs of heart attack and stroke and how our symptoms may differ from men’s, particularly as we age and move past menopause. For instance, women may experience more generalized pain spreading to the jaw and abdomen when having a heart attack.
Know your family history, know your risk factors and treat them appropriatetly, and most importantly, know the symptoms of potential cardiovascular emergencies.