LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 8, 2016) — The unspoken pact among Wildcat fans to always "Bleed Blue" was suspended last week in the Pavilion A atrium of UK Chandler Hospital long enough for supporters to "Go Red."
The American Heart Association's "Go Red for Women" day was Friday, Feb. 5 and dozens of supporters showed up dressed in red to promote awareness of women's heart health.
"Sadly, we are seeing more women with heart disease at a younger age," said Dr. Gretchen Wells, Gill Heart Institute's director of Women's Heart Health and the event's featured speaker. "It's critical we help women understand that heart disease affects them differently, that their heart attack symptoms can be different than men's, and that they shouldn't put off seeing a doctor if they have symptoms."
Wells explained that mortality rates for heart attack are actually higher in women than in men primarily because many women downplay their symptoms and/or don't recognize them as symptoms of heart attack until it's too late. She offered her own "Top 10" to encourage women to think about their heart health, including:
Know your symptoms. "Half of all women having a heart attack will experience chest pains, but the other half won't have that 'Hollywood Heart Attack,'" she said. Women are more likely to experience chest pressure, chest discomfort, back pain, jaw pain, or even tooth pain. Other symptoms include shortness of breath, cold sweats, nausea or lightheadedness. "Sadly, all of these symptoms mimic common illnesses like flu, and so women tend to dismiss them," Wells said.
Know your numbers. "Blood pressure, cholesterol, body weight and blood sugar are all factors that contribute to heart disease," said Wells. "It's critically important that you find out what your numbers are and take measures to correct anything that's out of line." Wells added an interesting note: while weight is important, waist size is perhaps a more relevant predictor of heart disease. "Women don't like to have their waists measured, but it is a really good way for us to predict heart disease."
Pay attention to lifestyle factors. Quitting smoking, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, get 150 minutes of exercise a week and find ways to reduce stress all can help reduce heart attack risk. "You don't necessarily have to join a gym or invest in a lot of expensive equipment to get heart-healthy," Wells explained. "Simply find ways to incorporate more energy into your day — park your car a little bit farther away in the lot, walk to lunch — even some household chores can burn a decent number of calories."
Call your mother. "This suggestion came from my mother," Wells explained with a smile. "Your family history can tell a lot about your risk for heart disease, and you should talk to your mother or other family member to learn whether heart disease runs in your family and, if so, which types."
The event ended with fruity treats, free chair massages and aromatherapy hand massages, and a group photo of participants dressed in red to honor the day.
"I didn't realize until today how women are different than men when it comes to heart disease," said Elizabeth Carman as she surveyed a table full of heart health information and giveaways. "I'm glad I came, and I will definitely be paying more attention to what I eat in the future to stay heart healthy."
Wells is already planning for Go Red 2017. She hopes UK HealthCare staff will contribute their heart-healthy recipes to a cookbook or even a bake-off to see who can make the tastiest healthy treats.
"Nothing would make me happier than to see our women commit to healthier living," Wells said. "We are role models for our spouses, our children, and our peers, and we must learn to put our health first for our own sake and as a model for those who love us, admire us, and/or work with us."
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