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What women need to know about heart disease

“It is imperative that women take charge of their heart health today, not only for themselves but for the future of their loved ones,” says cardiologist Dr. Bryan of Prisma Health.

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Three people sit on the grass by a body of water and smile for a photo as one person holds up a cell phone to take a picture.

Knowing your numbers, the symptoms of heart disease, and your family history is all part of committing to a heart-healthy lifestyle that could save your life.

Photo provided by Prisma Health

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February in COLA isn’t just for roses from Fern Studio and chocolates from Lowes Foods (although, it’s for that, too). Since today is Valentine’s Day and this month celebrates American Heart Month, it’s a time for self-love. Read: Understanding how to keep your ticker as healthy as can be, because the more you know about heart disease, the better chance you have of beating it.

The ugly truth is, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. That includes women with obvious risk factors (e.g. being overweight or smoking) as well as seemingly fit women with silent, but just as deadly, risk factors, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

So, how can a woman protect her heart’s health?

Cardiologist Andrea Bryan, MD, of Prisma Health shares these three recommendations for how to show your heart some love this Valentine’s Day (and every day):

  1. Know the symptoms of a heart attack. While women can experience that classic chest pain feeling of “an elephant sitting on your chest,” like men typically do, women are actually more likely than men to experience other symptoms of a heart attack, such as:
    • Fatigue
    • Chest pressure
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Back pain
    • Jaw pain
  2. Know your numbers. This refers to key markers of heart health like cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure. An astounding 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease, and many don’t even know it.
  3. Know your family history. If an immediate relative has had a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease, then you’re more likely to have it as well — even if you exercise + eat right. Keep up the heart-healthy activities, but also keep tabs on the potential underlying issues.

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