Many people don’t know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S. Typically thought of as a “man’s problem,” there are in fact 8 million U.S. women living with heart disease, and it kills some 400,000 American women each year. Unfortunately, it remains a largely “silent killer” that for too long has gone unrecognized.
Yesterday kicked off National Women’s Health Week, an effort coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. And while you moms out there hopefully indulged yourselves on Mother’s Day — including eating some less-than-nutritious treats with your families — today it’s time to face the sobering facts about women and heart disease.
- Women have a 15% greater risk of having a heart attack on a Monday than any other day of the week, particularly women under the age of 50.
- 90% of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease.
- African American and Hispanic women are at higher risk of heart disease than their white counterparts.
- Women’s symptoms of a heart attack include shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, sweating, lightheadedness or dizziness, unusual fatigue, and neck, shoulder, upper back or abdominal discomfort.
There is good news, however. Research shows women can greatly reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease by getting 2 ½ hours of exercise each week, maintaining a healthy weight, staying smoke free, and eating a diet low in saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.
Of course, taking part in Meatless Monday is a great way to do something positive for heart health. Replacing saturated fat-rich foods (for example, meat and full fat dairy) with foods that are rich in polyunsaturated fat (for example, vegetable oils, nuts and seeds) reduces the risk of heart disease by 19%.
So kick off Women’s Health Week right: spread the word about women’s heart health and the power of Meatless Monday.
And if you’re looking for heart-healthy recipe ideas, try some of these favorites: