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Listen Up, Ladies: Your Heart May be Talking to You


St. Luke's Hospital's newest Healthy Woman Series takes information to heart...literally

Women today are even more conscientious of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. They are aware of the many ailments that affect women every year: breast cancer, ovarian cancer and cervical cancer. Although many women consider breast cancer to be the greatest threat, the facts are that breast cancer kills 1 in 28 women, while heart disease kills one in two women.

A majority of women rarely consider the possibility of heart disease. They do not believe that they are as susceptible, because heart disease is only thought to affect middle-aged men. This can be a fatal misconception. Heart disease is actually the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.

"Some women are so accustomed to playing the role of caregiver that they tend to neglect their own needs," said Mary Pfenning, a registered nurse at St. Luke's Hospital. "Women should be paying attention to their own health needs. They should listen when their body gives them clues, such as unexplained anxiety, shortness of breath, discomfort in the back, shoulder, jaw or abdomen. These could all be signs of a heart disease."

"Prevention is key," Pfenning reminds us. "Regular exercise and a healthy, well-balanced diet can greatly reduce a woman's risk of developing heart disease."

Aerobic exercise for only thirty minutes every day is essential to maintaining a healthy heart. Surprisingly, you can get an aerobic workout while at home, at the office and at play. For instance, you should do your own housework instead of hiring someone else to do it. Take the stairs instead of the elevator in your office building. Plan family outings centered on a physical activity like swimming, biking or hiking. These convenient aerobic activities help to lower the heart rate, while increasing oxygen and blood flow to the heart.

A healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol that includes a variety of foods from all of the basic food groups is the best weapon against heart disease. A well-balanced diet supplies the heart with a number of antioxidants, including vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, which have proven to help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Although there are some risk factors associated with heart disease that women cannot control, such as heredity, gender and age, there are several other factors that can be controlled. In order to reduce her risk of developing heart disease, a woman should adhere to the following health tips below: