Empowering Women’s Heart Health: Steps for a Stronger Cardiovascular Future

When discussing heart health, it’s essential to highlight a topic often overlooked: women’s cardiovascular well-being. Heart disease is not exclusive to men; it affects women in significant numbers, and its symptoms and risks can differ between genders.

“As a cardiologist, I know the importance of women’s heart health and aim to provide guidance on proactive steps women can take to improve their cardiovascular wellness,” said Dr. Nha Huynh, a cardiologist with Riverside Heart & Vascular Institute.

Dr. Nha Huynh, Riverside Heart & Vascular Institute

Heart disease encompasses various conditions, including coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attacks, arrhythmias, and heart failure. Despite the misconception that heart disease primarily affects men, it’s the leading cause of death in women globally. However, women may experience different symptoms than men, such as atypical chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, or discomfort in the neck, jaw, or back.

“If you have symptoms that seem out of the ordinary make sure to talk to your primary care provider, especially if you have other risk factors that could put you at risk for heart disease,” said Dr. Huynh.

Several factors contribute to heart disease in women, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, smoking, lack of physical activity, stress, depression, and a family history of heart disease. Hormonal changes, especially during menopause, also impact heart health.

Steps women can take to improve their heart health include:

  1. Knowing Your Numbers: Regularly monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and body weight. Understanding these numbers helps in assessing and managing cardiovascular risks.
  2. Practicing Healthy Eating Habits: Adopt a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats like those found in nuts, avocados, and olive oil. Limit intake of processed foods, saturated fats, and excessive sugar.
  3. Regular Exercise: Engage in physical activity for at least 150 minutes per week. Activities like walking, swimming, cycling, or yoga contribute to improved heart health, weight management, and stress reduction.
  4. Quitting Smoking: Smoking significantly increases the risk of heart disease. Seek support and resources to quit smoking and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.
  5. Managing Stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact heart health. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to manage stress levels.
  6. Prioritizing Sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Poor sleep patterns can contribute to cardiovascular issues.
  7. Receiving Regular Check-ups: Schedule regular visits with a healthcare provider for preventive screenings and assessments to monitor heart health.
  8. Understanding Symptoms: Recognize and seek medical attention for any unusual symptoms like chest discomfort, shortness of breath, fatigue, or dizziness.

One of the most important things you can do is to educate others about the importance of women’s heart health with the women in your life. Share information with family, friends, and your community about preventive measures, healthy lifestyle choices, and the significance of early detection and treatment.

“Remember, prevention is key when it comes to heart disease,” said Dr. Huynh.  “By adopting healthier habits and proactively managing risk factors, women can significantly reduce their chances of developing heart-related issues and lead longer, healthier lives.”

If you think you could be at risk for heart disease talk to your primary care provider. Your primary care provider can help you determine when it is time to see a cardiologist. Don’t have a primary care provider? Riverside can help you find one that fits with your health goals, find out more about primary care at Riverside by visiting riversidehealthcare.org/primarycare