Love life? Protect your heart

January 2017 Posted in Your Health

By Kristine Thomas

Lisa Lyver and Jessica Keudell have heard too many stories of women who ignored the warning signs of a heart attack.

Lyver, a registered nurse, and Keudell, an exercise physiologist, both work for Legacy Silverton Health’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program in Woodburn.

Heart disease is preventable for both men and women, especially if they take some simple steps. February is American Heart Month with Feb. 3 being National Wear Red Day, to raise heart disease awareness.

Lyver said there are signs and symptoms people should pay attention to and then trust their instincts enough to seek help.

“Too often, women feel pain in their shoulders or arms or have indigestion and wonder what they did to cause that,” Keudell said, adding women tend to think they may have pulled a muscle or ate something they shouldn’t have.

Being extremely tired is another sign of having a heart attack, Lyver said. “And women explain that away because what woman isn’t tired.”

“When women are experiencing the symptoms of a heart attack, I don’t think the first thing they think is something is wrong with their heart health,” Keudell said.

Lyver added because women are normally the primary caregivers, they too often think they can’t be sick, so often ignore signs of a heart attack.

The reality is one woman is killed by heart disease and stroke every 80 seconds, according to the American Heart Association.

For both men and women, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the Center for Disease Control.

Healthy heart tips
Schedule a visit with your doctor
to talk about heart health.
Add exercise to your daily routine.
Start off the month by walking 15 minutes,
3 times each week. By mid-month,
increase your time to 30 minutes, 3 times each week.
Increase healthy eating. Cook heart-healthy meals
at home at least three times each week.
Take steps to quit smoking.
Quitting can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke.
For more from the CDC,

The five heart attack risk factors are:
hypertension or high blood pressure;
pre-diabetic or diabetic;
high cholesterol; and,
a family history of heart disease.

The risk factors for men having a heart attack increases after a man reaches 50. For women, it’s 60 years of age, Lyver and Keudell said.

Since men and women generally experience pain differently, it’s more common for a man to have noticeable signs of a heart attack, including chest discomfort, discomfort in other areas of the upper body and shortness of breath, according to the American Heart Association.

The most common symptom for women having a heart attack is chest pain and discomfort, but women are more likely than men to experience other symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain, according to the American Heart Association.

Lyver said it’s important to note that the symptoms depend on the person and if in doubt, it’s best to seek help. It’s even more important to take preventative measures, both women said.

Eight percent of deaths caused by heart disease can be prevented with education and action. That’s where Lyver and Keudell step in with advice on  healthy eating, quitting smoking, exercising and finding ways to relieve stress. 

It begins, they both said, with making a commitment to having a healthy lifestyle and making small changes.

Sleep is something both women and men tend to get too little of, Keudell said.

“It’s recommended you sleep seven to eight hours a night,” Keudell said, adding she knows women who function on four hours of sleep.

Lyver recommends people schedule time to exercise just as they schedule their work meetings and other events.

“It starts with putting yourself and your health first,” Lyver said. “It needs to be a priority.”

Lyver said it is important when making lifestyle changes to make the goals reachable.

Keudell has worked with patients who couldn’t walk more than a few minutes before breathing heavily. She suggests to people who haven’t exercised to start slow by walking five minutes, then gradually adding more time.

Nancy Campbell, MPAS, PA-C, emphasized the importance of people talking to their primary care provider about any of their health concerns.

“Don’t be afraid to talk to your provider or be embarrassed to share your concerns,” Campbell said. “The more information your provider has the more she can help.”

Campbell said each of us has a personal responsibility for our body and its care.

By people visiting their care provider, they can have test taken for their cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI). Knowing these numbers can help women and their healthcare provider determine their risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

Lyver said stress can play a factor in heart health. “We all have stress but we often don’t have healthy ways of handling it,” she said.

Keudell added people often deal with stress by drinking alcohol, smoking or unhealthy eating habits.

Acknowledging even thinking about all the steps to be healthy can be overwhelming, Keudell recommends starting with just one thing and setting a reachable goal.

And if you have a bad day, Lyver said, start again the next day.

“Think about the things in life that are really important to you and that you are passionate about,” Lyver said. “If you want to continue to do those things, then you need to take care of yourself.”

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