CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – Friday is Wear Red Day to bring awareness to women’s heart health.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death and disability of women in the U.S. and even more prevalent in Black women.
“There are a lot of kinds of heart disease. The most common heart disease and what most people think of with heart disease is coronary heart disease, blocked arteries,” Baystate Health medical director of cardiac rehab, Dr. Quinn Pack told 22News.
It’s a coincidence that American Heart Month coincides with Black History Month but the information and awareness that comes from American Heart Month may help save lives from the disease. The risk of death from heart disease differs greatly by race and ethnicity.
According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases kill nearly 50,000 Black women annually. Black women also have almost two times the risk of stroke than White women.
“The most important risk factors are what I call the big five. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, and family history,” Dr. Pack continued. Pack says diet, not exercising, lifestyle and weight are also factors.
The American Heart Association says 49 percent of Black women ages 20 and older have heart diseases that means nearly one in every two Black women has heart disease.
But there are ways to lower your risk. Pack said 90 percent of heart diseases are preventable.
“One, go see your doctor. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugars checked. Second of all you should get out and move. Three, eat right and if you need to lose some weight. If you can do those three or four major things, you will help reduce your risk of heart disease,” Dr. Pack recommends.
Dr. Pack said if a woman develops gestational diabetes (diabetes developed when pregnant) they should talk to their doctors about preventative measures for heart disease, as gestational diabetes is a risk for future heart disease. He told 22News that women with or who had, gestational hypertension, high blood pressure during pregnancy and preeclampsia need to be on the alert for future heart disease and when the moment comes may need to start on medicine.
There are some symptoms to look out for.
“Chest pain of any kind and I mean pain from the jaw to the belt, including down to the elbows that starts with exertion and gets better when you rest. That’s something you should always have evaluated by a doctor,” Dr. Pack said. “Obviously if you ever have crushing pain, pressure, uncomfortable sensations, that should be evaluated by a doctor.”
But Dr. Pack said sometimes symptoms are different for older women.
“Women, particularly elder women, and those with diabetes tend to have more atypical symptoms. They might show just with just shortness of breath or they might just be fatigued,” Dr. Pack said. But he cautions that “Anybody that has really bad shortness of breath or a sudden onset of fatigue that is unexplainable that’s something that you ought have evaluated quickly, maybe in the emergency room.”
The local chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha, a historically Black sorority, is hosting a virtual women’s heart health event on February 26th. It’s their annual “Pink Goes Red” event to help raise awareness of heart disease by dancing, cooking, and doing yoga for American Heart Month. You can register to their event online.