Health Tip: Heart Disease is the Leading Cause of Death in Women

Written by Jenna Pizzi
Published on February 10, 2017

Students participate in Go Red for Women day to raise awareness about heart disease.

While heart disease is traditionally thought to primarily impact men, it is the leading cause of death for women, killing one in three a year, including those who may not have overt symptoms.

During February, which is Heart Month, USciences physical therapy professor Lora Packel, PhD, is working to raise awareness about heart disease in women.

“While many people are aware of the ‘typical’ signs of a heart attack such as chest pain or heaviness, women are more likely to experience other symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, sweating, or jaw and neck pain,” said Dr. Packel, board certified as a cardiovascular and pulmonary specialist. “Since awareness of these symptoms is less well known, women tend to ignore the warning signs or delay medical attention, which can result in a more severe heart attack or even death.”

Lora PackelTo draw attention to the risks and warning signs of heart disease in women, Dr. Packel and her students participated in Wear Red for Women day on February 3 and posted  on social media with the #WearRedForWomen. The students are also promoting the care that physical therapists can provide when patients have suffered a heart failure or a heart attack. 

“Physical therapists are key members of this team which may also include nurses, exercise physiologists, registered dietitians, and physicians,” said Dr. Packel. “Patients who have had a cardiac incident should ask their doctor for a referral to a cardiac rehabilitation program with a physical therapist. The program may include exercise, education about heart disease, nutrition, and stress management. This has been shown to significantly reduce mortality rates, reduce isolation and depression, and improve quality of life.”

A healthy routine is paramount in preventing heart disease or protecting against a repeat cardiac incident. Here are a few tips to keep your heart healthy from the American Heart Association:

  • Regular exercise can help manage a healthy weight and reduce blood pressure. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range reduces the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys.
  • Eat colorfully. A healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains can help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar, helping you fight heart disease and keeping you feeling good and healthy. High cholesterol contributes to plaque which can clog arteries, leading to heart disease and stroke. High levels of blood sugar can also damage the heart and kidneys.
  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of heart disease, so quitting gives you a leg up on a healthier heart.

To find a cardiac rehabilitation program near you, click on the program finder of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (AACVPR).

To find a Board Certified Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Physical Therapist, check the American Physical Therapy Association's finder.


Categories: News, Health Tip,Samson College, Department of Physical Therapy, Physical Therapy

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