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August 26th, 2019
Healthy Lifestyles

reddressHeart disease might be seen as something that predominantly affects men, but women are not immune to this potentially deadly condition. In fact, doctors and healthcare professionals advise women to take serious heed of heart disease, which claims more female lives than breast cancer, other cancers, respiratory disease, and Alzheimer’s disease combined.

The American Heart Association  indicates that more women are now aware that heart disease is the leading cause of death among females than they were 20 years ago. While just 30 percent of women recognized that in 1997, that figure had risen to 56 percent by 2012. However, the AHA reports that only 42 percent of women aged 35 and older are concerned about heart disease. Initiatives like Go Red for Women in February help shed light on the threat posed by heart disease.

Here are some facts to consider.

  • • Roughly one female death per minute is attributed to heart disease.
  • • Heart disease affects women of all ages. In fact, the AHA says that the combination of smoking and birth control pills can increase heart disease risk in younger women by 20 percent.
  • • Mercy Health System says about 5.8 percent of all white women, 7.6 percent of black women, and 5.6 percent of Mexican American women have coronary heart disease.
  • • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, almost two-thirds of women who die suddenly of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms.
  • • When symptoms are present in women, they are not like the stereotypical clutching of the chest that men experience. Heart disease symptoms in women can include upper back pain, chest discomfort, heartburn, extreme fatigue, nausea, and shortness of breath.
  • • Even fit women can be affected by heart disease. Inherent risk factors, such as high cholesterol, can counteract  healthy habits.

Women are urged to take various steps to reduce their risk of heart disease:

  • • Lose weight
  • • Engage in regular physical activity
  • • Quit smoking
  • • Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum
  • • Get cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly
  • • Make healthy food choices
  • • Lower stress levels
  • • Control diabetes

Taking charge of factors they can control can help women improve their overall health and lower their risk for heart disease. Women also should speak with their doctors about heart disease. Learn more at www.goredforwomen.org.  

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organdonorOrgan donation is overwhelmingly supported by the adult population of the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 95 percent of adults in the United States support organ donation. In spite of that, the DHHS notes that only 54 percent of U.S. adults are signed up as organ donors. That gap only highlights the need for education in regard to organ donation. Separating the facts and fiction surrounding organ donation might compel more people to sign up as donors, saving untold numbers of lives as a result.

  • • People with medical conditions can still be organ donors. Many people mistakenly assume that an existing medical condition precludes them from being organ donors. However, the DHHS notes that very few medical conditions would prevent people from becoming organ donors. Such conditions include HIV and active cancer. Transplant teams determine at the time of death if a donation is possible, so even prospective donors who have doubts can still sign up.
  • • There is no age limit for organ donors. The health and condition of the organs, and not their age, is what matters. In fact, the DHHS notes that the oldest donor in the United States was 93 at the time of donation.
  • • Religions do not prohibit organ donation. The DHHS notes that most major religion support organ donation, considering it a final act of love and generosity. Prospective donors who are uncertain if their religion supports organ donation can visit https://www.organdonor.gov/about/donors/religion.html for more information.
  • • Celebrity status, race or financial well-being do not dictate who receives organs. In the United States, a nationwide computer system matches donated organs to recipients. Blood type, geographic location and time on the waiting list are just some of the factors used to match donated organs to recipients. Race, celebrity status or financial well-being are never considered.
  • • Medical personnel will try to save organ donors’ lives. Some people fear that signing up as a donor might compel medical personnel to abandon lifesaving methods if they become ill or injured. But that’s not the case. Donation is not possible until all lifesaving methods have failed.

Organ donation is a selfless act that saves lives every day. Learn more at www.organdonor.gov. 

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heartvalveHeart disease is a blanket term that includes a variety of conditions and illnesses. Heart valve disease is one such condition that poses a significant threat, a threat that many people are unaware of.

A 2016 public opinion survey of more than 2,000 adults sponsored by the nonprofit Alliance for Aging Research found that public awareness of heart valve disease, or HVD, is very low. Fewer than one in four survey respondents knew much about HVD at all. That’s despite the fact that the AAR reports that as many as 11 million people in the United States have HVD.

Raising awareness of HVD, including its symptoms, can help people protect themselves from this potentially deadly disease.

What is HVD?

HVD occurs when the heart’s valves, which maintain one-way blood flow through the heart, are not functioning properly. The heart has four valves that, when working properly, ensure the free flow of blood in a forward direction, preventing backward leakage. This process is essential to the successful and continuous flow of blood to the heart, lungs and body.

What causes HVD?

HVD sometimes develops before birth, meaning some instances are congenital birth defects. In some such instances, people may be born with valves that are the wrong size. Some valve diseases are acquired during one’s lifetime. Acquired valve diseases may be linked to conditions such as rheumatic fever or endocarditis, which occurs when germs enter the bloodstream and attack the heart valves.

What are the symptoms of HVD?

The online medical resource Medicine.net notes that even people with no symptoms at all may have severe valve disease that requires prompt treatment. As a result, it’s imperative that people prioritize annual health checkups. Annual physicals can be a person’s best defense against various conditions, including HVD.

People who experience any of the following symptoms, which should be reported to a physician immediately, may be suffering from HVD.

  • • Shortness of breath and/or difficulty catching your breath: This can occur during daily activities or when lying down flat in bed. Some people experiencing this symptom during sleep may need to prop themselves up on pillows to facilitate breathing.
  • • Weakness of dizziness: Some people with HVD pass out as a result of their dizziness. Some may be too weak to perform daily activities.
  • • Chest discomfort: A pressure of weight in the chest when being active or going out in cold air may be indicative of HVD.
  • • Palpitations: This symptom can feel like a rapid heart rhythm, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats, or a flip-flop feeling in the chest.
  • • Edema: This swelling of the ankles, feet or abdomen can, when affecting the belly, make people feel bloated.
  • • Rapid weight gain: Some people with HVD gain two to three pounds in a single day.

Heart valve disease poses a serious threat. More information about HVD is available at www.valvediseaseday.org.

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