I talk to my clients regularly about taking care of themselves through healthy choices and smart lifestyle decisions. Being smart about how we treat ourselves allows our minds and bodies to perform at optimum levels.

Every choice we make-whether to eat healthy, to be active, to be hydrated, to get enough sleep, etc … has benefits and consequences. The health of our HEART is directly affected by the daily lifestyle choices we make.

What better time to address HEART health than in the month of Valentine’s Day! Hearts are made for loving and living! I want you to keep your heart strong and to be smart in knowing your risks. Unfortunately in our sedentary, super-size society- Heart disease is prevalent.

But in my experience, most women think they are more at risk of cancer than any other health risk — specifically breast cancer.

Not true! Heart disease kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.

Empower yourself by knowing your risks and symptoms. Women have many of the same risk factors for heart disease as men:  Age, family history, smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Risks that are specific to women include:

  • Starting your period at a young age (younger than 10)
  • Had pregnancy-related conditions like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure or preeclampsia
  • Went through menopause at an early age (younger than 44)
  • Are post-menopausal
  • Have medical conditions like lupus, chronic kidney disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The more risk factors you have, the higher the risk. Know your medical history and communicate with your doctor. YOU are your best adversary for your HEALTH.

1. Get an annual check-up – We are very good about making sure our kids go for their wellness checkups and physicals – even reminding our husbands to schedule theirs. But we need to care of ourselves too! Get important facts about your health, talk about any symptoms you may be experiencing and ask your doctor what you can do to manage your risks

2. Make heart healthy choices

  • Eat a diet that includes a variety of fruits and veggies, whole grains, lean poultry, fish and low-fat dairy
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Quit smoking and using tobacco products
  • Find healthy ways to cope with stress, like physical activity, hobbies, medication or prayer

3. Pay attention to how you feel— common symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue, arm pain. Other symptoms include:

  • Fluttering in the chest (heart palpitations)
  • Coughing, especially a dry cough
  • Anxiety
  • Swelling of your feet or ankles
  • Weight gain accompanied by swelling in the legs
  • Fatigue

If you get heart-related symptoms when you’re angry, upset or stressed, talk to your doctor as this can be a sign of heart disease. Some milder symptoms to pay attention to include:

  • Pressure or pain in your chest that comes and goes
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Pain in your jaw, arm or back

If you’re like me, you have a sixth sense about knowing when something is really wrong. Don’t ignore that feeling! If you think something is wrong, talk to your doctor or get emergency medical help. Call 911 — It’s always better to be safe than sorry!  Info collected from the Heart and Vascular Health Institute.