You’ve Come A Long Way Ladies – Protect Your HEART!

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February is American Heart Month. “We’ve come a long way ladies!” We have caught up with men by dying at the same rate of heart disease as men are! Heart disease kills 1 in 4 women in our great nation every year.

Now, I’m all for women’s lib but not when it comes to equality of mortality rates of heart disease statistics! Why is this happening to us, ladies? Why haven’t the numbers of deaths from heart disease in women declined? Some women I have spoken with say it is because demands on women are greater, now more than ever. One of my friends stated it so eloquently, “we are expected to look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man and work like a dog!”

The good news is we have the capability to change those statistics because several of the risk factors for heart disease are preventable on our part. For example, the biggest risk factor of all…tobacco use! In a study published in the Lancet in 2011, it showed that women who smoke have a 25 percent higher rate of coronary artery disease than men. Quitting smoking (or chewing tobacco) is the number one most preventable way to decrease your risk for heart disease. Yet more ladies are lighting up worldwide! Here is another alarming fact: Women are starting smoking earlier than men and women are starting smoking later in life than men. It is the down and dirty addiction to nicotine. Women’s brains are wired to react to physical addiction differently than men and that makes it somewhat harder for a woman to quit tobacco.

Face it ladies, in our efforts to be equal, we are different from men. We have to rehab from drugs like nicotine differently than men do. Many men can say, “I quit” and throw away the tobacco pack. A woman will say, “I quit,” throw away the tobacco pack, and then rummage through the garbage for a butt that is almost gone, trying desperately to relight it! Ladies need a more comprehensive approach to quitting tobacco. Ladies need the support from family and friends, doctors, a cessation or behavioral health coach and nicotine or pharmacological therapies to help them succeed. By quitting tobacco by age 45 ladies can increase their life span by nearly 10 years and if ladies quit tobacco before the age of 30, they decrease their risk of tobacco-related disease by 97 percent!

Other related and preventable heart disease risk factors for women include lack of physical activity and healthy nutrition, and lack of sleep coupled with increased sustained stress and high alcohol consumption.

So instead of adding to those women-and-heart-disease statistics let us go the “other way” ladies! For many of us we’ve given birth, breezed through menopause, raised teenagers, cared for our parents or loved ones, experienced trials and tribulations and illness. In order to continue to accomplish life’s plan and experience a full, rich and productive life, we must take care of the mechanism inside of us that beats unconditionally every second of the day, our heart. We’ve come a long way ladies – let’s keep it that way and beyond!

For more information on Living a Healthy Heart Lifestyle, contact the WCA Hospital Wellness Program at (716) 664-8677 or e-mail toni.deangelo@wcahospital.org.