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Commentary: What’s a Red Dress have to do with heart disease?

By Mona AlvaradoFrazier / Guest contributor

For the past week, you’ve seen red hearts, candy, flowers and Valentine cards everywhere. Well now that Valentine’s Day has passed, it’s still appropriate to talk about the color red and hearts. February is also Heart Month, specifically the health and physical condition of your heart. This is a time to become aware or reacquaint you with the risk factors leading to heart disease.

Heart attacks are the number one killer of women. This is more than diabetes, breast cancer, lung cancer and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease combined. Yes, you read the chart correctly. More deaths than all those diseases combined.

The Heart Truth is a national awareness campaign for women about heart disease sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Their common goal is the better heart health for all women. The Heart Truth campaign warns women about heart disease and provides tools to help them take action against its risk factors.

The Heart Truth created and introduced the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness in 2002 to deliver an urgent wake-up call to American women. The Red Dress® reminds women of the need to protect their heart health and inspires them to take action. The symbol links a woman’s focus on her “outer self” to the need to also focus on her “inner self,” especially her heart health. The Red Dress serves as a red alert to convey the message that “Heart Disease Doesn’t Care What You Wear — It’s the #1 Killer of Women.®”

Women’s risk of heart disease begins to increase from ages 40 to 60. However, it’s never too early — or too late — to take action to prevent and control risk factors since heart disease develops over time and can start at a young age — even in the teen years.

What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?

Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse. Important risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about 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)

Heart Attack Symptoms

  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the left side of the chest. The discomfort usually lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain; it may feel like heartburn or indigestion.
  • Upper-body discomfort: This symptom can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, shoulders, neck, jaw, or upper part of the stomach (not below the belly button).
  • Shortness of breath: This symptom may occur before or with chest pain or discomfort and can even be the only symptom of a heart attack. It can occur while you arc at rest or with minimal physical activity.

Other symptoms to pay attention to:

  • Breaking out in a cold sweat
  • Unusual or unexplained fatigue (tiredness), particularly in women (which may be present for days)
  • Nausea /vomiting
  • Light-headedness or sudden dizziness

Minutes matter. Call 9-1-1 if you have these symptoms.

Your life is in your hands. To assess your own heart health and learn what to do to live better, visit My Life Check at www.mylifecheck.heart.org This site, sponsored by the American Heart Association, provides a score for your heart health by answering a few questions.

After the survey, there are several suggestions for you to have a healthier life and to live longer. Take a few minutes to do this today. You would like to be around next Valentine’s Day to celebrate and spend time with your loved ones, wouldn’t you?

— Mona AlvaradoFrazier is a writer and proprietor the BookNook in Downtown Sol, 328 W. Third St., Oxnard. To see more of her work, visit www.latinapen.blogspot.com

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