It’s all too familiar – a man doubles over in pain, has trouble breathing, says it feels like an elephant is sitting on his chest – the typical conditions of the “Hollywood heart attack.” What we have witnessed time and time again in the movies might describe warning signs for a male having a heart attack, but what are the symptoms for women with heart disease or experiencing a heart attack?
Heart attack predictors for women can be very different from the Hollywood heart attack according to Sara Martin, Communications Director at the American Heart Association in Denver. Though tightness in the chest area is also a predictor for women experiencing a heart attack, they are more likely than men to experience alternate conditions including nausea, head and neck pain or tingling in the arm.
In the United States, nearly 85 heart attacks occur every hour. Heart attacks take place when arteries supplying the heart with blood are blocked or restricted by fat, cholesterol or plaque. Heart failure simply means that the heart isn’t pumping as well as it should. Martin reports that when women have these conditions, “They may be less likely to speak up if they are experiencing abnormal symptoms. Women will send their husbands or children but are the last to go to the hospital, less likely to focus on themselves.” Martin encourages women to, “Take good care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family.”
Though heart health status has improved for some over the past two decades, heart disease continues to be the number one killer of U.S. residents. A 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that while mortality rates from heart disease has declined over the past several years, the decrease has slowed especially for younger women. This may exacerbate the disease rate for Latinas, part of a community that is younger than the U.S. average.
The AHA notes that only 17 percent of all women consider heart disease or stroke to be the country’s greatest health problem. The misperception is even more egregious in the Latino community where only 15 percent of Latinas consider heart disease and stroke the biggest health threat.
Unfortunately, Latina community health predictors are in many cases worse for the risk of heart attack. Higher rates for Latinos for heart disease, heart attack and stroke in the U.S. are due to higher rates of predictive conditions including diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure. For U.S. women aged 20 years and older, 65 percent are overweight or obese. In the Latina population, the rate soars to 75 percent, a prime predictor for, and a preventable condition for heart disease. While around 30 percent of all U.S. women have high blood pressure, one third of all Latinas over the age of 20 have cardiovascular disease. Latinas are likely to develop heart disease 10 years earlier than their non-Latina peers.
Given risk rates and conditions that are particular to Latinas, the AHA is promoting the idea of preventable heart disease through the Vestido Rojo campaign. With slogans like, “The American Heart Association es Por la Vida” and “Go Red Por Tu Corazón,” the American Heart Association has launched the national campaign to bring attention to the dangers of heart disease and risk factors that are proportionately higher amongst Latinas throughout the country. Vestido Rojo is prominent throughout the southwestern United States and larger cities comprised of large Latino populations. At the educational part of the event, Latinas will be encouraged to 1) Know Your Numbers; Understand Risk Factors; Take Action
Know Your Numbers
To be their own best advocate, Latinas will be encouraged to know five personal health numbers to take control of their heart health and help determine their risk for developing heart disease:
1. Total Cholesterol
2. HDL (good) Cholesterol
3. Blood Pressure
4. Blood Sugar
5. Body Mass Index (BMI)
In addition, women should identify a cardiologist, and the hospital where they could seek medical attention if experiencing heart problems.
Understand Risk Factors
The American Heart Association (AHA) urges women to “be your own best advocate” by “knowing your body” and recognizing the difference between simple stress and more serious conditions. Superior self-advocacy can only be accomplished by understanding heart disease risk factors. Some risk factors including genetic history and age cannot be changed. However, many risk factors can be controlled. Personal habits including not smoking, increasing physical exercise and improving diet can be implemented to minimize risk.
Latinas are encouraged to increase healthy habits and decrease damaging ones. Developing an action plan with your healthcare provider is important to improving numbers and developing concrete health goals. Martin encourages women to start with minimal changes, “Start small. Take the stairs, play kickball, walk your dog, park your car further away from the grocery store. Small changes make a big difference. They will lead to bigger and better things down the road.”
The Journal of the American College of Cardiology study identified six areas determining optimal health lifestyle for positive health outcomes: not smoking, healthy diet – high in fruits and vegetables, regular physical activity – at least two and a half hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, a decrease in television viewing – seven hours or less a week, low alcohol consumption – the equivalent of one or less alcoholic beverage per day and controlled Body Mass Index (BMI).
The Denver edition of Vestido Rojo will be held on Saturday, May 13th from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Double Tree Hilton Hotel in Stapleton. The event features a free half-day educational conference about heart disease for Latinas in both English and Spanish. Health screenings, lunch, and prizes are also included. La Voz is a proud sponsor. To register for the event, please visit, www.Denvervestidorojo.heart.org. For further information, please contact Emily Gordon at the American Heart Association at 303-801-4686 or firstname.lastname@example.org.