We are losing our moms and our sisters, our aunts and our daughters, our friends and neighbors, to something that is largely preventable.
According to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement, cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the No. 1 cause of death in women and the leading cause of maternal death in the U.S.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
“Many strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular conditions can be prevented through education and lifestyle changes such as moving more, eating smart, improving your well-being and managing your blood pressure,” said Dr. Jeannette Yuen, Cardiologist at Scarsdale Medical Group.
Unfortunately, in the past two years we’ve seen people’s health — and the significant progress we have made in cardiovascular health overall — unravel. We delayed doctor appointments, took on record-breaking stress levels at work and at home, and turned to unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to cope with the constant “new normal.” We can’t change the past, but we can reclaim the future by acting now to manage our lifetime risk for heart disease and stroke.
“Every age and every stage of life add up to how many healthy years you’ll have. Women face unique risk factors for cardiovascular disease throughout their lifetime, including pregnancy,” continued Dr. Yuen. For example, according to the American Stroke Association, pregnant women are three times more likely to have a stroke as non-pregnant women of the same age.
“Managing conditions like high blood pressure before getting pregnant helps keep mom and baby healthy during pregnancy and beyond,” Dr. Yuen said.
Here are four things you can do to help yourself and the women you love reclaim today for a better tomorrow:
• Manage your blood pressure – Have your blood pressure measured at least once per year by a health care professional, regularly monitor it at home with a validated monitor and discuss the numbers with a doctor. For most people, a normal blood pressure should be 120/80 or less.
• Learn how to spot a stroke F.A.S.T. – A stroke can happen to anyone at any point in their lifetime. If someone is having a stroke, they must get medical attention right away. If you see Face drooping, Arm weakness or Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911. Immediate treatment may minimize the long-term effects of a stroke and even prevent death.
• Reduce chronic stress – Stress is a part of life, but chronic, constant stress is unhealthy and should not be the norm. Staying active is one of the best ways to manage stress. Not only can it help you feel, think, sleep and live better, it also improves overall quality of life.
• Pay it forward – Make a lifesaving gift in honor of a woman you love by helping the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association raise millions for moms this month at www.stroke.org. #MomsAreWhy
Losing even one woman to stroke or heart disease is too many. We can change the future if we start today.
Diego is the Communications Director for the American Heart Association in New York City. He loves sharing powerful stories that inspire people to take control of their health.