September 29 is World Heart Day, another opportunity to raise awareness of cardiovascular (heart) disease prevention. This year’s observance focuses on women and children. Most people think heart disease only affects older people or men. Women often underestimate their risk of heart disease, even though almost half of the deaths that occur annually are among women. Mothers are also often the ‘gate keeper’ of their children’s health and are influential in the food and activity choices their children make. These choices affect their future heart health.
Heart disease and stroke are Iowa’s leading killers. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) supports the ‘Make the Call, Don’t Miss a Beat’ initiative from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Knowing the symptoms of heart attack is the first step toward surviving one. The most common signs of heart attack in both women and men are:
- Unusually heavy pressure on the chest, like there’s a ton of weight on you. Sharp upper body pain in the neck, back, and jaw. (This is a more common symptom for women than for men.) Severe shortness of breath.
- Unexplained or excessive sweating (or for women, breaking out in a cold sweat, and you know it’s not menopause).
- Unusual or unexplained tiredness.
- Unfamiliar dizziness or light-headedness.
- Unexplained nausea or vomiting. Women are twice as likely as men to experience these symptoms during a heart attack.
Equally important to knowing the symptoms of heart attack is acting quickly if you experience them. If you have any of the symptoms of heart attack, or think you might be having one, call 9-1-1 immediately. A national survey of women found that many said they would only take action if their symptoms lasted 30 minutes or more. According to the CDC, every 30 minutes you wait to get help could take one year off of your life.
You can learn more about heart attack symptoms and prevention by visiting www.womenshealth.gov/heartattack/ . For more information on the IDPH Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention program, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/hpcdp/hdsp_home.asp.