Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wearing Your Heart on Your Shoulder

Do you wear your heart on your shoulder?!!!?????  I'm kind of being silly, but not really...I ask this question in relation to your heart health versus your emotional health.  In the past few months I have lost a number of exceptional women in my life due to heart disease, or cardiovascular disease (CVD), and the statistics in addition to the need for educating women about our vulnerability to this disease has inspired this post.  

In my opinion, it's important for us to take notes on our bodies and its response to our daily activities, interactions, and stress levels.  I'm not saying you need to meditate, participate in yoga, see a therapist, etc....I'm just suggesting that when something about your body feels "off" make a mental note of it and maybe even have a seat and live in the "offness" you feel to be able to describe to it to a medical professional.  The more moments we take to listen to our bodies and educate ourselves about them; provides us with more tools to utilize when our bodies are responding in unusual patterns.

For International Women’s Day the World Health Organization (WHO) presented 10 illnesses that were significant to women and their health.  Those 10 health issues were:

World Health Organization (WHO) 10 Health Issues of Women. (Bustreo, 2015)

In researching more, I found an additional list of health concerns related to women, which listed the top 5 female health issues as:
  1. Heart disease 
  2. Breast cancer
  3. Osteoporosis
  4. Depression
  5. Autoimmune diseases (Zamora, 2015)

For the sake of not overloading you with ALL of the health concerns for women, I’m going to address cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women in this post, as it is one of our top health issues and causes of death.  Just to put things into perspective, 
  • In 2006, 26% of women died from CVD, which is equivalent to more than 1 out of every 4 women you may know dying from CVD (Moran & Walsh, 2013).
  • If we fast-forward to more recent years, statistics show that CVD is responsible for 29% of deaths in women  (Bustreo, 2015).  
  • About 5.8% of all white women, 7.6% of all black women, and 5.6% of mexican-american women have coronary artery disease (CDC, 2015).
In talking about what may make noticing CVD symptoms difficult for women...the short of it is that CVD symptoms present very differently in women than they do in men AND our CVD symptoms are NOT usually presented as the “classical/standard” symptoms.  But just as a general rule of thumb, any symptoms that appear as

  • pain, pressure or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, upper stomach, or back,
  • feeling weak light-headed or faint,
  • pain or discomfort in arms or shoulder,
  • shortness of breath, and 
  • nausea (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015)
that can appear while resting, at the start of physical activity, or during periods of high stress.  These are significant signs that should prompt you to seek medical advice and/or call 9-1-1.

In our case, the female body already has so many functions playing the balancing dance that CVD symptoms could be very subtle or even absent…which definitely makes me and should make you uneasy!  But, studies have shown that a large percentage of women experience
  • fatigue,
  • sleep disturbance, and
  • shortness of breath
prior to experiencing a heart attack (Moran & Walsh, 2013).  After reading this, I instantly thought...I experience at least two of those three on a weekly basis...which would make me a prime candidate for ignoring such indicative signs.  The more disappointing research shows that close to two-thirds or 64% of women who die suddenly from CVD had absolutely NO symptoms (Moran & Walsh, 2013).  With that in mind, we need to pay close attention to our body with respect to symptoms or feelings of being “off or icky” that may appear and disappear spontaneously.  If and when you ever feel chest discomfort, or any of the symptoms listed above, it is EXTREMELY important that we seek medical advice, and if you suspect that you or someone near you is having a heart attack INSTANTLY call 9-1-1.  NEVER brush off or ignore any of the above symptoms as indigestion or stress (which is what I might I have the tendency to do...considering life doesn't really slow down!) as the faster you seek medical assistance the larger your chances are of surviving.

Just a Few Facts…
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and White women in the United States (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015).
  • Illness symptoms can be broken down by:

CVD and Related Symptoms. (CDC, 2015)

Your Risks for Being Affected by CVD...

CVD Risk Factors. (CDC, 2015)

How to Limit or Minimize Your Risk...

By educating ourselves and listening to our bodies, we can reduce our chances of heart disease by:

Minimizing CVD Risk Factors. (CDC, 2015)

There are a number of initiatives at work to educate on CVD, check out these links below for more information:

Also, I wanted to point out that none of the listed symptoms related to CVD had an age stamp attached, which is VERY significant, as women of any age as well as those at a "healthy" weight with unhealthy fat proportions can be affected in large numbers.  Hopefully this post will help someone along their journey to optimal health.  Please feel free to comment or re-post.  Until next time ;)


Bustreo, F. (2015 8-March). Promoting health through the life-course. Retrieved 2015 13-May from World Health Organization (WHO): http://www.who.int/life-course/news/2015-intl-womens-day/en/

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015 30-April). Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Retrieved 2015 1-May from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_women_heart.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015 19-February). Heart Disease. Retrieved 2015 1-May from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/signs_symptoms.htm

Moran, B., & Walsh, T. (2013 February/March). Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Nursing for Women's Health , 63-67.

Zamora, D. (2015). Women's Health. Retrieved 2015 1-May from WebMD: http://www.webmd.com/women/features/5-top-female-health-concern