Heart Health Matters: Know the signs, keep the beat

February is a month to celebrate hearts. Candy hearts. Chocolate hearts. Your sweetheart.

In health care, we emphasize the most important heart of all — your own.

Each February we celebrate American Heart Month with reminders that heart disease is the leading cause of death of all Americans, especially women.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year — more than all cancers combined. That’s approximately one woman every minute!

Did you know symptoms of heart attacks can be different for women?

Symptoms in women:

• Chest pain, but not always

• Pain or pressure in the lower chest or upper abdomen

• Jaw, neck or upper back pain

• Nausea or vomiting

• Shortness of breath

• Fainting

• Indigestion

• Extreme fatigue

Symptoms in men:

• Squeezing chest pressure or pain

• Jaw, neck or back pain

• Nausea or vomiting

• Shortness of breath

If you experience any of these signs or symptoms, dial 911 immediately and get to a hospital right away. Don’t drive yourself to the hospital. Try to stay as calm as possible and take deep, slow breaths while you wait for the emergency responders.

Women who think they’re healthy often misread the symptoms of a heart attack because they don’t think it could happen to them.

That’s why it’s crucial to learn about heart attack symptoms, know your numbers and live heart healthy.

Knowing your numbers means knowing and managing risk factors such as your total cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI). If your numbers indicate a high risk for heart disease, commit to a heart-healthy lifestyle.

If you don’t know your numbers, it’s probably time for a routine physical.

Reduce your risk for heart disease by committing to a heart healthy lifestyle. You know the basics: eat healthy, exercise, don’t smoke, get good sleep and manage stress.

We know it’s not easy. But let’s get to the heart of the matter. Heart disease is real and dangerous.

Do your part. Heart your heart!

— Information courtesy of the American Heart Association. For more information, visit heart.org.