February is American Heart Health Month, and according to the American Heart Association, ‘heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year’.

According to a Proclamation by the White House, Cardiovascular heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, claiming nearly 700,000 lives a year.

Dr. Nosheen Reza, Director of Penn Medicine Women`s Cardiovascular Center joined us this morning to talk about heart health tips for women, and debunk the myth surrounding women presenting differently for heart attacks.

Historically women have been thought to have atypical cardiac symptoms, but Dr. Reza says “Women present really similarly to men, so we should get rid of that language and start educating everyone about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.”

The American Heart Association and Penn Medicine say that primary prevention starts with going to the doctor, staying up to date on recommended screenings, and adopting a healthier lifestyle.

Symptoms of a heart attack:

  • Chest discomfort that may travel to other parts of body such as arm or neck
  • Trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • Palpitations or heart fluttering in the chest
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating

Dr. Reza empowers her patients to know their numbers and their risk through the ‘Life’s essential 8’, a framework developed by the American Heart Association to establish ideal cardiovascular health.

Life’s essential 8 covers all the ideal life behaviors to help reduce cardiovascular risk.

American Health Association

Life’s essential 8 includes:

  • Monitoring cholesterol levels
  • Monitoring blood pressure
  • Monitoring blood sugar range
  • Moderate or high intensity exercise
  • Healthy diets such as the recommended Mediterranean diet
  • Getting an appropriate amount of sleep (7-8 hours)

According to Dr. Reza, the Mediterranean diet has the best cardiovascular heart health benefits.

  • Whole foods
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • Eating legumes, nuts, and seeds
  • Focus on eating seafood instead of red meats and poultry
  • Cooking oils such as olive oil and canola oil
  • Avoid sugary beverages and processed foods

Heart health tips:

  • Monitor stress and cortisol levels
  • Limit excessive alcohol intake
  • Stop smoking
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet, low in sodium, cholesterol, and saturated fat.
  • Do 30-150 minutes of physical activity
  • Get 7-8 hours of sleep
  • Take prescribed medicine
  • Make regular doctors appointments
  • Get you family history and know your risk

You can find more information about Dr. Reza and Penn Medicine here.