Five Things You Didn’t Know About Heart Health

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Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S., killing 314,186 women in 2020 and one person about every 34 seconds in the U.S. today, according to the CDC. And while February is dedicated to shining a spotlight on heart health, it's a subject that's worth paying attention to year round.

Thankfully, there's an abundance of information and resources available from organizations around the country and top health systems right here in West Michigan that can help you stay on top of your cardiovascular health. Even still, there are plenty of things in relation to keeping your heart in tip top shape that many people remain unaware of.

Keep reading to learn more about some of these facts and their importance.

1. A consistent mindfulness practice shows promise in helping lower blood pressure.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure (hypertension), many of which are completely unaware they have it. Recently presented research found that adults with elevated blood pressure who participated in a mindfulness behavior program for eight weeks had significantly lower blood pressure levels and greatly reduced sedentary time, when evaluated at a six month follow up. Thankfully, mindfulness is a practice that can be easily integrated into your daily routine, no matter what your lifestyle currently looks like.

2. Your job might affect your heart health.
Preliminary research presented at the AHA's 2019 Scientific Sessions found that women who held specific jobs showed an increased likelihood to have poor heart health: social workers (36%), retail cashiers (33%), registered nurses (14%) and women in some health care roles (16%), especially in the areas of nursing and psychiatry and home health aides. Identifying these occupations helps spotlight which areas of work could benefit from workplace health programs, in addition to supporting future research to examine cardiovascular disease risks in women.

3. Most people don't know the signs of a heart attack in women.
According to a 2020 Cleveland Clinic survey, many Americans report not recognizing key symptoms of heart attacks in women. Many were unaware that: chest pain (24%), shortness of breath or sweating (28%), pain in the neck or back of jaw (43%), new or dramatic fatigue (55%) and nausea/vomiting (60%) are signs of a heart attack in women.

4. Exercise reduces the risk for coronary heart disease in women by 30-40%.
While most everyone is aware that physical exercise is good for your health, many don't realize how dramatically influential staying active can be on your heart health. Physical activity—ideally 150 minutes a week for women—has been shown to reduce risk of stroke by 20% in moderately active people, in addition to improving blood circulation and cholesterol levels, preventing bone loss and more. Of course, it's important to talk to your doctor about any concerns and before starting any new workout regimens.

5. A woman's risk for heart disease and stroke increases at and around menopause.
Women become at greater risk for stroke and heart disease once reaching menopause, with research indicating that women who arrive at this stage of life before age 45 have a significantly higher risk of coronary heart disease. AHA's Go Red for Women campaign advises post-menopausal women to maintain their cardiovascular health by continuing to receive regular heart screenings; exercising regularly; eating a healthy diet; focusing on mental well-being; and finding support through communities such as their #GoRedGetFit Facebook group.

Learn more about how to maintain a healthy heart by visiting heart.org and goredforwomen.org.


Set aside five minutes to learn more about your risk for stroke and heart attack, thanks to American Heart Association's Health Calculator: ccccalculator.ccctracker.com

Having trouble remembering stroke symptoms? Remember FAST:

  • Face Drooping
  • Arm Weakness
  • Speech Difficulty
  • Time to call 911

Written by Sarah Suydam, Managing Editor for West Michigan Woman.

This article originally appeared in the Feb/Mar '23 issue of West Michigan Woman.


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