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February is Heart Awareness Month!

Red puzzle heart with stethoscope on brown wooden backgroundHeart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for women in the United States, killing one in every three females. These are your mothers, sisters, daughters and best friends. Women’s health must be a priority and heart disease cannot be overlooked—it’s not a “man’s disease” as once thought by so many.

Do you know the symptoms of heart attacks for women?

Heart Attack Symptoms For Women

The American Heart Association lists the following symptoms as the main heart attack indicators for women.

  • Focused in the chest, an uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, pain or fullness. The feeling(s) may last several minutes and then go away, only to return.
  • Pain and/or discomfort in the arms (one or both)
  • Pain and/or discomfort in other areas such as the stomach, back, neck and jaw.
  • Difficulty breathing/shortness of breath, with or without discomfort or pain.
  • Lightheadedness and nausea.
  • Breaking out in a cold sweat.

It’s extremely important to note that women can and do experience heart attacks without having any chest pressure or pain, the most common heart attack symptom for men. A women’s heart attack is not a man’s heart attack, which is why it makes it critical to know and to be able to recognize these symptoms.

Important: Please contact 9-1-1 and get to a hospital if you experience any of these symptoms or suspect that you may be having a heart attack.

The American Heart Association urges everyone to remember, “women are somewhat more likely than men to experience some of the other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.”

What Causes a Heart Attack?

When your heart can’t get oxygen because blood flow has been blocked, a heart attack happens. Typically, this occurs as a result of coronary heart disease, states the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute ( NHLBI). A heart attack also may happen when a coronary artery spasms severely. The spasm cuts off blood flow through the artery and causes a heart attack. This type of heart attack may be caused by a reaction to a specific drug, cigarette smoking, severe emotional stress or pain and even exposure to extreme cold temperatures. Unfortunately, 64% of women who die from heart disease show no previous symptoms. This is what experts call, silent coronary heart disease.

How to Prevent (Silent) Heart Attacks?

Several factors can increase your risk for heart disease, which can lead to a life-threatening heart attack. This include but are not limited to:

  • High blood pressure
  • High LDL cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Physical inactivity
  • Alcohol abuse or overuse
  • Smoking and drug use

If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your doctor for recommendations on how to lower your risk for heart disease and potentially fatal heart attacks.

Any women who finds herself experiencing one or more of the heart attack symptoms listed above, should immediately get help. Don’t brush your symptoms off as the flu or your imagination. Your health is important. You are important.

New Year, New You!

It’s a new year and now is the time to make wellness and a healthy lifestyle a priority. Start off the new year right with better food choices designed to improve women’s health. There are several, easy and affordable ways to cut calories, increase nutrient intake and feel better about your food choices.

Eat More Food

Eating more food simply means eating more whole foods or food that has not been processed in some manner. Whole foods like apples, unsalted almonds and fresh berries can be a healthier choice for a mid-morning snack versus even a low-fat granola bar. With a whole apple, unsalted nuts and other whole food choices, your body enjoys important nutrients that can help fight heart disease and even breast cancer.

Nutrition tip: A single serving of unsalted almonds (about seven almonds) has 22 milligrams of calcium plus fiber, iron, magnesium, vitamin E and other essential nutrients. It’s a heart-smart snack.

Produce Versus Processed

Spend some time in the produce section of your grocery store, make it your first stop when shopping. The middle aisles of most grocery stores are home to processed items like boxed dinner kits, sugar-laden sauces and cereals with added nutrients. Instead of relying on a box of cereal for your daily recommended amount of fiber or vitamins, look to whole food choices like sweet potatoes, a good source of fiber as well as vitamin A. Fill your cart with a variety of different fresh fruits and vegetables. Make a promise to yourself to try at least one new fruit or vegetable every week or every visit to the store.

The Mayo Clinic reports that blueberries are packed with phytonutrients that have the potential to prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. If fresh blueberries aren’t in season, opt for frozen blueberries packaged without any preservatives or additives like sugar. Toss a handful into the blender with a cup of Greek yogurt, one-half cup of unsweetened orange juice and a medium banana for an easy, delicious and nutrient-rich smoothie.

Read the Label

When you do opt for packaged items, remember to read the nutrition label to stay on track with your healthy food choices and portion control. Often we underestimate the actual size of a single serving. At the top of the nutrition label is the serving size — always check there first, because what you may think is a single or two serving item, may really be three, four or more servings per package. Check the labels and avoid packaged items with trans-fats and high percentages of cholesterol, sugar and sodium.

Everyone can make healthier food choices in the new year. Start by adding fresh berries to a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast instead of flying out the door with a donut high in saturated fat. Grab a handful of unsalted almonds when the 2 p.m. munchies hit instead of a candy bar from the vending machine. Swap out French fries for a baked sweet potato. Don’t forget to drink your water. You can do this. The smallest change can make a difference. It’s a new year and anything is possible.  

Learn How To Cope With Stress

iStock_000018547652_FullHave you felt like there are not enough hours in the day, unexpected bills keep coming, or your career responsibilities are too demanding? How do you react to all these family, financial or personal situations? Have you felt as you are going to collapse at any moment? We have all been involved in these stressful and difficult situations at some point of our lives. But how is this affecting our health? And how can we handle it?

There is no question that stress can result in harmful effects to our bodies. Though little evidence exists about any direct cause-effect relationship between stress and breast cancer or heart disease, excessive stressful situations can lead to unhealthy behaviors that will contribute to risk factors of these diseases. For example, people trying to ‘manage/cope’ with stress often engage in behaviors like smoking, drinking alcohol, physical inactivity and overeating. Unhealthy stress management responses like these will increase our blood pressure and cholesterol levels. What are some healthier ways to manage stress? Let’s take a look:

Usually people relate the word ‘stress’ to something negative. However, feeling stressed is completely normal. In fact, certain amounts of stress can turn out to be positive – it all depends on how you cope with it. Our body is designed to manage some level of stress (i.e. stress that helps you get to work at a certain time). Achieving an optimal level of stress can even be motivational, increase your memory, boost your immune system and help you focus on important tasks.

Of course, our bodies are not made to handle chronic stress. Chronic stress makes us feel tired, depressed, angry, forgetful, out of control, or anxious. You might also experience headaches, back strain, or stomach pains. While we all perceive and handle stress in various ways, the key is to figure out what triggers your over-stress and how to cope with it.

Here are some great ways that may help you:

1. GET ACTIVE: Exercise! Whether it’s a walk, a swim or yoga, physical activity will increase endorphins – the hormones that make you feel good. Lifting weights will help you drain accumulated tension. Being regularly active will also reduce your risk for developing breast cancer or heart disease.

2. BE POSITIVE: Be self-confident. Welcome good humor. This will help you calm down, relax, and control stress. Try to turn any negative thinking into positive thinking!

3. BE PROUD: Don’t try to be perfectionist, nobody is. Just be proud of who you are.

4. QUIT SMOKING: Even though many people see smoking as a stress reliever, studies have shown that smoking causes more stress than it relieves. Smoking is a short-term fix with many long-term health problems as a result.

5. LIMIT ALCOHOL AND CAFFEINE INTAKE: Excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can aggravate stress and even trigger panic attacks. It can also increase your blood pressure. Instead, try substituting these for decaf coffee or tea and limiting alcohol consumption.

6. REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT! Focus on eating energy-boosting foods like fruits and snacks containing omega-3, like nuts. Incorporate unsaturated fats (good fats) like avocado, salmon and seeds. Consume lots of vegetables and be sure to eat whole grain foods. Don’t skip meals and don’t wait more than four hours without eating. Never forget that maintaining a healthy diet is key to living a healthy lifestyle, thus reducing your risk for breast cancer and heart disease.

7. CHEW GUM: Reach for a stick of gum! Studies have shown that it helps reduce cortisol levels and as such, stress. Go for “Sugar-Free” options to avoid increased sugar intake.

8. CALL A FRIEND: This will calm you down and allow you to share your feelings, often relieving some of the pressure.

9. SLEEP: Try to sleep 6-8 hours each night. Studies have shown that people who sleep less have reduced insulin levels and increased levels of cortisol, which increases appetite. Your metabolism will become slower and stress will increase.

10. ACCEPT THAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL EVERYTHING

11. RELAX: Listen to calming music, reading a book, doing yoga and breathing deeply for a few minutes each day are just a few ideas.

12. LAUGH: Studies have proven that laughing releases “happiness hormones” (such as dopamine) and decreases cortisol and adrenaline levels, making your nervous system know that you are happy!

Sources: American Heart Association, Reader’s Digest, Smokefree Women, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, National Cancer Institute

WBHI Founder Andrea Ivory honored at 2011 American Red Cross Spectrum Awards for Women

Phillis Oeters presenting the Baptist Health of South Florida Healthcare Award to Andrea Ivory

The American Red Cross recently honored 11 outstanding women with prestigious Sara Hopkins Woodruff Spectrum Awards during a luncheon on February 3 at the JW Marriott Marquis in downtown Miami. Our Founder Andrea Ivory was one of the women honored. Andrea was presented the Baptist Health of South Florida Healthcare Award. “Spectrum” refers to the impact these women have on a broad scope of community life and also reflects the spectrum of cultures represented in our community. The honorees serve as exceptional examples of the humanitarian principles of the American Red Cross. Ileana Bravo served as Mistress of Ceremonies for the awards, which were chaired by Phillis Oeters. Swanee DiMare was the honorary chairman. Ms. Bravo also narrated a video tribute to each of the Spectrum honorees which was produced by Josie Goytisolo with the help of Multivision Video and Film. The 2011 Sara Hopkins Woodruff Spectrum Award for Women honorees included Tracy Mourning, Yolanda Berkowitz, Alex Villoch, Debra Scholl, Rochelle Baer, Mayda Cisneros, Andrea Ivory, Kimberly Wilson, Bella Goldstein, Mona Adams and Cristina Hernandez. View additional event photos on the Red Cross event page.

American Red Cross Spectrum Awards for Women honorees and sponsors