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The Truth About Women's Heart Health

Today, February 5th, is Women's Heart Health day, and it is important to remember that awareness is vital and that fallacies surrounding heart disease can cost us many lives. Here are some of the most common misconceptions about the issue.

The term ‘heart disease’ encompasses a variety of cardiovascular conditions such as hypertensive, coronary and rheumatic heart disease. To lead a heart-disease-free life, your safest bet would be to exercise regularly, quit smoking, lower your cholesterol levels and maintain a healthy weight and blood pressure. As simple and fairly easy the above prevention plan may sound, Egypt still loses 57% of its female population to heart disease annually, 48% of whom are housewives. Death rates are highest in urban areas and among women 75 years of age and older.

Friday 5th is the day the American Heart Association asks the world to wear red in order to raise awareness about the risk that heart disease poses to women and one organisation working to make sure Egyptian women lead healthy, disease free lives is health resort and medical campus Rofayda which provides numerous medical and non-medical services. So, in an effort to save Egyptian women’s lives from the silent killer, Rofayda just launched their #GoRedwithRofayda campaign, an awareness initiative intended to educate Egyptians about heart disease.

Since 1984, more women have died of heart disease than men. It is also considered deadlier than all forms of cancer put together. The lack of understanding about the disease contributes to the deaths of thousands of women every year; the difference between facts and myths can just save your life.

Myth 1: Heart Disease Symptoms are the Same in Men

Apart from the classic “elephant sitting on the chest” which accompanies a heart attack, women and men can experience the disease very differently as women are more likely to exhibit less traditional symptoms, making them more vulnerable to it as a result of misinterpreting them. A 2003 survey concluded that unusual forewarning symptoms of a heart attack include extreme fatigue, weakness, sleep irregularities, nausea, indigestion, and shortness of breath. More women exhibited these symptoms than men. Another interesting fact is that 43% of female test subjects didn’t experience chest pain at the time their heart attacks happened.

Myth 2: Heart Disease Only Strikes Old People

Unlike the common belief that only old men and women develop heart disease, more and more young women are afflicted by it now that obesity, diabetes and hypertension have become more common. Other risk factors include sedentary lifestyles and combining birth control pills and smoking.

Myth 3: Heart Disease Doesn’t Affect Skinny Women

People often associate obesity with heart disease, as well as a host of other conditions, but you could be skinny and have high cholesterol and/or blood pressure levels which are silent risk factors, meaning they have no obvious symptoms. There is no way of knowing you have high cholesterol or blood pressure levels unless you underwent cholesterol and blood pressure tests. Regular checkups and tests can detect the risk factors early, giving you the opportunity to make the lifestyle changes you need to make before it is too late.

Myth 4: I Will Get Heart Disease No Matter What Because It Runs In My Family

It is true that women are more likely to develop heart disease if it runs in their families, but there is no reason why making heart-healthy choices could possibly hurt. Many women with a family history of heart disease have been able to avoid it thanks to healthy lifestyle choices.     

Myth 5: Vitamins and Supplements Can Lower the Risk of Heart Disease

While antioxidant vitamins E, C and beta carotene can help lower the risk of heart disease, clinical trials conducted failed to confirm their benefits. According to the American Heart Association, there is no scientific evidence that supplements containing these vitamins have the same effects as the vitamins themselves. A healthy, varied and nutritious diet is the only way to ensure that your body gets the vitamins and minerals it needs - only then are they best absorbed.

Myth 6: It’s Too Late To Quit Smoking Now, the Damage Done to Your Heart Is Irreversible

The risk of a heart attack will drop up to 50% one year after you quit smoking, it doesn’t matter how old you are or how long you have smoked. If you can’t quit, seek help, the process can be made easier with stop-smoking aids such as nicotine patches and gum.  

Myth 7: You Can’t Exercise If You Have Heart Disease

The American Heart Association recommends two and a half hours or more of moderate intensity exercise each week to maintain cardiovascular health. Research shows that regular exercise can prolong a heart attack survivor, so if you pick up the habit you will find that it is safe and beneficial. 

(Image courtesy of WebMD)

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