Mayo Clinic

Worth Celebrating: Your Heart!

February 9, 2012 at 11:24 am , by

When I think of February, I think of red—lots of it. Not because of all the cheesy (but fun) Valentine’s Day stuff, but because it’s American Heart Month. February doesn’t really start until that first Friday when we celebrate National Wear Red Day.

Did you participate last week? (We did! That’s us, the @lhjHealthLadies on Twitter, above.) This year, Go Red for Women is hosting a challenge on its Facebook page to spotlight its most spirited supporters. All you have to do is submit a photo of you and your coworkers or friends (or pet!) wearing red. Then, until February 23 people can vote via “Likes” on their faves. Winners will be announced February 25.

Here at the Journal we start gearing up for February way in advance, when we plan our heart health coverage for the magazine. Yes, some of it can be glamorous—like the beautiful photos we shot of a model hooked up to an EKG (below) for this year’s story. But the real reason we devote pages to cholesterol, blood pressure and the myths and realities of heart disease is that unfortunately, it is still the number one killer of American women. And women between the ages of 35 to 54 appear to be dying from it at an increasing rate, despite decreasing rates among other groups. This year, we also learned that nearly half of women say they wouldn’t call 911 immediately if they thought they were having a heart attack. That’s crazy! Women are also less likely to be diagnosed correctly, making them less likely to receive life-saving therapy right away.

All of this is why we sent one of our over-stressed writers with all the wrong risk factors to see a cardiologist and report back. And why we decided to interview a heart attack survivor turned blogger about why doctors dismissed her symptoms at first. Sometimes personal stories say it even better than statistics.

But that doesn’t mean stats aren’t useful in their own way. Yesterday, I went to a briefing hosted by the Mayo Clinic, The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and WomenHeart where I picked up a few telling numbers:

  • 1 in 2 women will die of heart disease or stroke, versus 1 in 25 who will die of breast cancer.
  • 8 million: the number of American women with a history of heart attack or angina.
  • Do you smoke? Besides the fact that 30 percent of heart disease deaths are caused by smoking, your risk of heart disease is 25 percent higher than a male smoker’s. (And social smoking counts—you don’t have to smoke a pack a day, or even a pack a month, to hurt your heart.)
  • 90 percent of women have at least one risk factor.

But the most important number is this one: 80 percent of heart disease cases are preventable. There are lots of things you can do to keep your heart healthy, and the sooner you start the better. Check out our resources page if you need a little direction.

Happy American Heart Month from the LHJ Health Ladies!