In more ways than one, February is all about heart. It's Valentine's Day, of course. And Galentine's Day. But what many people don't know is that it's also American Heart Month. That's important because heart disease and stroke are women's No. 1 killer, causing more deaths each year than all cancers combined.
When we think about heart disease, many of us think it's something to worry about later in life. But recent data shows that the risk factors for heart disease are rising in younger women. It's important for women in their 20s and 30s to make decisions now that are good for their hearts – and to encourage their friends, sisters, co-workers and colleagues to do the same.
Strong female friendships empower us, build us up and create support networks that help keep us healthy. We often look out for the women in our lives and know that they'll look out for us – and this includes talking to each other about our health, and our risks for a disease that will kill 1 in every 3 of us. The good news is that 80 percent of heart diseaseand stroke can be prevented.
Here are a few tips that will help you and your friends reduce your risk of heart diseasethis Heart Month:
Get heart checked. Download the Women's Heart Alliance's wallet card, and bring it to your doctor's office so you can get to know your heart health numbers: cholesterol, blood pressure, fasting glucose and body mass index, among others.
Let your friends know that younger women's risks are increasing, and work together to eat healthier and be physically active.
If you experienced pre-eclampsia or gestational diabetes while pregnant, you're at greater risk for heart disease. Be sure to discuss this with your health care provider.
Don't use tobacco or tobacco products. If you do, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to get help quitting.
Know the signs: Women often have different symptoms of heart attack than men do. We are more likely to experience jaw pain, nausea, extreme fatigue, shortness of breath or a backache rather than a chest-clutching "Hollywood heart attack." When in doubt, call your health care professional or go to the emergency room.