February is Heart Month and the American Heart Association is calling on all women to invest an hour of their life by scheduling a Well-Woman Visit with their health care provider.
A Well-Woman Visit is a prevention check-up to review a woman’s overall health so her doctor can measure blood pressure, check cholesterol and look for signs of heart disease, stroke and other illnesses. It can be scheduled with a primary care physician, nurse-practitioner or an Obstetrician Gynecologist (OB-GYN).
A Well-Woman Visit requires no additional cost for most women because of the Affordable Care Act. Check your insurance plan for preventive services coverage before scheduling a visit.
“Getting to heart disease before it gets to you is one of the best weapons to fight the nation’s leading health threats,” said Dr. Ravi Dave, American Heart Association Los Angeles Board President and UCLA Health cardiologist. “An annual preventive checkup is a must for all women. It helps catch health problems early and minimize damage to the body.”
Cardiovascular disease is America’s leading killer, but it poses an even greater threat to women, killing more women than men every year. Heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular diseases cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. An estimated 44 million women in the U.S. are affected by cardiovascular diseases. Ninety percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke.
The good news is 80 percent of cardiac events may be prevented with education and lifestyle changes. In addition to scheduling a Well-Woman Visit, the AHA also recommends Life’s Simple 7 as an approach to improving one’s heart and brain health:
1. Get active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, five times a week.
2. Eat better: A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated and trans fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars, and high in whole grain fiber, lean protein and a variety fruits and vegetables.
3. Maintain a healthy weight: Bringing your body mass index (BMI) below 25 benefits your heart.
4. Stop smoking: Breaking the nicotine addiction is very important if you want to live a long and healthy life.
5. Manage blood pressure: Keep blood pressure levels to less than 120/80. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can hurt or kill you.
6. Control cholesterol: A cholesterol reading of 200 mg/dL or higher requires action. High cholesterol can cause blocked arteries, which may lead to a heart attack.
7. Reduce blood sugar: Blood sugar levels above 100 indicate that you may have diabetes or pre-diabetes, which increases heart attack risk.
It is equally important to learn the warning signs of a heart attack. Chest pain and radiating discomfort in the left arm are common symptoms for both men and women. Women, however, may experience other warning signs, including shortness of breath, back or jaw pain and nausea. Call 9-1-1 immediately at the first sign of symptoms.