I'm a healthy woman with no history of heart disease in my family, so heart health was just not on my radar. However, I was recently invited to speak at a luncheon and at the same event was Austin-based cardiologist, Caitlin Giesler, M.D., who has a clear passion for educating women about heart disease awareness and prevention.
I learned SO much that day that I knew this was information that I simply had to share with our whole community. Dr. Giesler speaks in plain language about how we're just now recognizing the differences in heart health in women and men. That blew me away! Women simply weren't included in heart health studies until the 1990s, so the data we have is still new and being added to each year.
Listen to this whole fascinating and important podcast on Spotify HERE or YouTube below. And keep on scrolling to get some topline information about risk factors, protective habits, and the easy "think 30" tip that Dr. Giesler shared.
Heart Disease in Women: Risk Factors
High Blood Pressure
Problems During Pregnancy: Preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, pre-term labor
4 Effective Protective Habits to Start Now!
Do we know these things? Yes, but most likely we consider these habits good for overall health. But maybe knowing how they can specifically impact your heart health will have you reconsider their importance.
Get Good Consistent Sleep
"You don't have to be a vegan marathon runner." Dr. Gielser
Dr. Giesler has this handy way to remember the good things you need to look for to keep your heart health in tip top condition. She calls it "Think 30" and it looks like this.
You want the top number of your blood pressure to be less than 130.
You want your LDL (bad cholesterol) to be less than 130.
You want to aim to exercise 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week.
You want your BMI (body mass index) to be less than 30.
You want to eat 30 servings of fruits and vegetables each week.
You want to pause at 1:30 to center yourself whether through prayer, meditation, breathing or a walk - take a few moments to destress and realign your body and mind.
"It doesn't have to be all or nothing, every bit helps. Move your body, eat more veggies, work on better sleep."
Be Aware of These Heart Attack Symptoms
A heart attack for a woman presents much differently in the ER than it does for a man. As Dr. Giesler explained, men typically have that "movie" symptom of extreme pain down the left arm. Not so for women where the signs may be more subtle.
You may feel pressure in your chest - more discomfort than pain.
This discomfort may feel more present in your neck and jaw.
You may be short of breath or have difficulty getting a deep breath.
You might feel clammy.
You won't feel good.
Dr. Giesler emphasizes the need for women to PAY ATTENTION! If it crosses your mind, "hmmm, could this be a heart attack?" Go to the ER and let them make that decision for you! Don't second guess your gut.
There's just so much more to this podcast including the numbers you need to know as a baseline for your own health and at what age, things to consider when looking for a cardiologist, and how the hormonal component of menopause effects our hearts.
Meet 2 Young, Healthy & Active Heart Attack Survivors
What a wake-up call to realize that the face of heart attacks might not be what we all picture in our minds. Heart attacks do not just affect the unhealthy, the inactive, the elderly or the sick.
But wait, there’s a silver lining: an awareness of the symptoms is key to survival and to minimizing damage, as displayed in both Darby & Jennie’s experiences. And awareness we can all have.
We hope their stories open your eyes as they have ours and teach you something you may not have known before about heart health and heart attack symptoms among women.
Click HERE to read their stories and we hope these incredible stories, this blog post and podcast will also inspire you with their optimistic, hopeful and renewed perspective and approach to life!