Heart Disease & Women – National Wear Red Day®

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women? In the United States, one in four women die of heart disease, while one in 30 dies from breast cancer.

This year wear your heart on your sleeve and ask everyone you know to wear a red dress, red tie, or red shirt. The power color red promotes and supports women’s heart health.

Heart disease is forever. Once you have heart disease, it’s not going away. Having heart disease is not an automatic death sentence as there are risk factors and there are some things you can do right now to minimize those risk factors.

Some of the risk factors are:

• High blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol
• Diabetes
• Smoking
• Being overweight
• Being physically inactive
• Having a family history of early heart disease
• Age (55 or older for women)

You cannot change your family history nor can you change your age but you can quit smoking, begin an exercise program, lose weight, take medication or meditation to lower your blood pressure and ask your doctor how to lower your blood cholesterol.

Heart attack occurs when an artery becomes blocked, preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to the heart. Knowing the early symptoms of a heart attack can save a woman’s life.

Forget the misguided Hollywood rendition where actors collapse and clutch their hearts in pain. Heart attack symptoms are more subtle and thus, easy to ignore especially for women. Symptoms for women might be indigestion, extreme fatigue, nausea, pain in jaw/neck/arm and left side of the body, cold sweats, breathing difficulty.

Even while working on improving some of risk factors, women may not be aware of the hidden danger of taking prescription medications that have serious side effects – some which are known to cause heart disease. For instance, take Fosamax, Actonel, and other osteoporosis drugs in the bisphosphonates class. Mild side effects include diarrhea, gas and constipation; mild heartburn or stomach upset; minor joint and back pain and mild headache. More serious side effects are swelling of the hands and feet, dizziness, chest pain, pain under the ribs and severe joint and back pain. Oddly enough these are the same symptoms of a heart attack in women.

According to a study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2008, 6.5% of 719 patients with atrial fibrillation took Fosamax, compared to 4.1% of more than 900 women who did not take the drug.

Atrial fibrillation or “A fib” is the most common type of arrhythmia which is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. The heart can beat too fast or too slow. Some people won’t have any symptoms yet if A fib goes unnoticed, it can increase the risk of stroke. Atrial fibrillation can cause chest pain or heart failure, especially if the heart rhythm is very rapid.

More than 1,700 women participated. Women who took Fosamax had an 86% higher risk of atrial fibrillation than women who never took Fosamax. The study was deemed not conclusive enough and more study was needed.

The color red is the color of fire and blood and courage. Red is associated with strength, power, determination, danger, passion, and love. Red is the appropriate color to promote awareness for women and heart health. So wear red and wear it proudly.

In the immortal words of the Rolling Stones (circa 1964)

“Put on your red dress baby,
‘Cause we’re going out to night.
Put on your red dress baby,
‘Cause we’re going out to night.
You better wear some boxing gloves In case a fool might wanna fight.”

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