Keeping Your Heart Healthy After 40Posted on Feb 4th 2011 11:00AM by Holly St. Lifer
Holly St. Lifer
Now 42-year-old Volpe does her half hour on the treadmill or stationary bike five days a week and has given up cholesterol-boosting no-no's like cheese and ice cream in favor of a low-fat diet. "If I had it all to do over, I certainly would have eaten better and exercised," she said.
The fact that heart attack is the No. 1 killer among women just doesn't register with us. Five hundred thousand women die of cardiovascular disease each year. Yet the image of an old man clutching his chest is what we visualize.
Lori Anne Parker was driving home from her teaching job in July of 2009, when she felt a pain that started in her fingers then shot up her arm and into her chest. Later that night, she vomited. A man would have recognized these symptoms as a heart attack, but Parker assumed it was the flu.
The following day when she felt her heart racing, she researched heart attack symptoms in women but still didn't call her doctor. Too much caffeine, she thought. It wasn't until four days later, when all of the symptoms returned, that she realized she had suffered a heart attack that night and was now having another one. She rushed to the hospital where doctors performed emergency triple bypass surgery.
Parker, who is just 40 years old, is lucky to be alive. "I've been a hot yoga-practicing vegetarian for 20 years with no family history of heart disease or elevated cholesterol. I've never smoked. As a woman, I had worried about breast cancer but never about my heart," said Parker, who is a painter from Whites Creek, Tenn.
Both Parker and Volpe hope their stories will urge women to not just recognize their symptoms but also take immediate action. "It's also important to understand that while staying fit and eating well is crucial to warding off heart attack risk, it doesn't make you immune," said Parker. Still, the American Heart Association reported that regular exercise reduces risk of coronary disease in women by up to 40 percent, and Parker credits her healthy lifestyle for her speedy recovery. In addition to yoga, she has since added treadmill walking to her fitness routinefour days a week and is mindful of squeezing in extra walking during the day, like by choosing the copy machine farthest from her desk, for instance.
Fitness Guidelines for a Healthy Heart
Do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise -- or a combination of both intensities. Think: 30 minutes a day, five times a week. If you can't fit that in, you can still get the benefits by dividing your time into two or three segments of 10 to 15 minutes per day. If you're new to exercise, walking is the easiest way to get your body moving and burn calories. The American Heart Association also has a nutrition center to help you get your diet on a heart-healthy track.
Know the Symptoms
"Don't discount classic men's symptoms because you think women's are different. Some are the same, such as chest pain, shortness of breath and sweating," said Dr. Mary Ann Bauman, Go Red for Women spokesperson and medical director for Women's Health and Community Relations at Integris Health in Oklahoma City. Other subtle symptoms include:
- Pain in the upper back and across shoulder blades
- Discomfort in the jaw and arm
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue