Women can try to decrease heart disease risk early

Black women are the number one targets for heart disease, but experts believe that younger women have an earlier opportunity to decrease their risk through healthy eating and routine exercise.

Black people in general are at a high risk for heart disease, but for black women the risk is even greater, said Jay Schleuning, communications director for the American Heart Association.

“African-American women are 44.7 percent more prevalent compared to 32.4 percent in white females,” Schleuning said.

He said many young people have the tendency to think that heart disease can only happen to the elderly, but it does not matter how old you are to become affected.

“If you think that way, it could be deadly,” Schleuning said. “A heart attack is something that can happen to anyone at any race and any age,” he explained.

There is no better time to educate young people on heart disease than while they are in college, he said, because students are at a point where they will be making important, life-changing decisions.

“It is crucial for young people to change their lifestyle early in life in order to save their lives,” Schleuning said.

It is important for young women especially to go to a physician on a regular basis and to not put off yearly checkups, Schleuning said. He said a woman should know her cholesterol numbers like she knows her weight, dress size and shoe size.

“We always recommend that a woman should have a conversation with her doctor about the numbers she wants to be tested for,” Schleuning said.

Some Florida A&M University students agree with Schleuning.”African-American women should get more educated on the disease so they can know what they’re at risk for,” said Yolonda Walton, 20, a junior nursing student from Dade City.

Schleuning described the different types of cholesterol numbers, such as total cholesterol and blood pressure, for which women should be tested.

AHA researchers recommend people check to see whether they have a family history of heart disease because it greatly increases their chances of being affected if the disease runs in their family. The AHA said not to ignore the warning signs of a heart attack that could include chest and upper body discomfort, shortness of breath and possible nausea or lightheadedness. The AHA also notes that 18.5 percent of black females smoke cigarettes, and smoking puts women at an even higher risk of a heart attack.

If a person thinks they might be having any severe heart trouble, the AHA said he or she should dial 911 immediately because it is the fastest way to receive the proper help and treatment.

On the other hand, Schleuning said young women could prepare themselves for any type of heart trouble with diet and exercise.

“Make sure to walk 30 minutes a day to decrease chances,” he said.

“One-third of women underestimate, and that’s why this is so important.”

Because this is the Southeast, people are at a higher risk of getting heart disease because of the type of the Southern food they like to eat.

“This is something that doesn’t have to happen to people,” Schleuning said.

Many times people do not realize they are partaking in a diet that is slowly killing them, he said.

More information can be found at http://www.goredforwomen.org.