Approximately one female in the United States dies of heart disease each minute, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). The condition – which causes plaque to accumulate along the inside walls of your arteries, potentially blocking the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart – is responsible for more female deaths than all forms of cancer combined.

To protect yourself against heart disease, know the symptoms and create a prevention plan to reduce your risk.

Know the Symptoms

Men and women alike experience the most common symptoms of heart disease - pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest. However, such signs may not appear as severely in women, if they appear at all. While the classic symptom of heart disease is a crushing pain in the chest, women may experience a sharp, burning pain that often occurs in the abdomen, back, jaw, neck or throat. In some cases, there may be no sign of heart disease at all until a woman has a heart attack, stroke or other cardiac event.

Know Your Risk

Smoking, high blood pressure and high low-density lipoprotein cholesterol are key risk factors for heart disease, and nearly half of all Americans have at least one of these. But you may be at increased risk of heart disease if you:

  • Are overweight or obese
  • Consume excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Have diabetes
  • Maintain an unhealthy diet

Create a Prevention Plan

There's good news – 80 percent of cardiac and stroke incidents can be prevented, according to the AHA. A good first step toward heart disease prevention is scheduling an annual physical with a primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, find one and schedule an appointment by calling Medline at (423) 622-6848. Your doctor should run routine lab tests to identify diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Now that you know your numbers, take control of your health by taking steps to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Step 1:

Stop smoking. If you don't smoke, great! Don't start.

Step 2:

Commit to exercise. The AHA recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity and two days of engaging in moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening exercise per week.

Step 3:

Refine your diet. Instead of processed foods full of salt, sugar and trans fat, fill your pantry with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products. Increasing the amount of lean meat, such as fish, you consume can also help reduce your risk.

Want to know more about how you can reduce your risk of heart disease? A Parkridge Health System cardiologist can help you learn your numbers and create a prevention plan that works for you.

Call Medline®, at (423) 622-6848, to schedule an appointment