Heart & Vascular Care Institute

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Women's Heart Health

Celebrate National Wear Red Day® with Go Red For Women and Freeman Health System to help fight women's #1 killer – heart disease.

Heart disease claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. For more than 10 years, the American Heart Association has sponsored National Wear Red Day® to raise awareness in the fight against heart disease in women.

2014 was the 11th year anniversary for National Wear Red Day® and during that time, there have been some major accomplishments, including:

  • 21 percent fewer women dying from heart disease
  • 23 percent more women aware that it’s their #1 health threat
  • The publishing of gender-specific results, established differences in symptoms and responses to medications, and women-specific guidelines for prevention and treatment
  • Legislation to help end gender disparities

What causes heart disease?

Heart disease affects the blood vessels and cardiovascular system. Numerous problems can result from this, many of which are related to a process called atherosclerosis, a condition that develops when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This buildup narrows the arteries, making it harder for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms, it can stop the blood flow. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

But it doesn’t end there. Heart disease can take many other forms as well:

  • Heart failure or congestive heart failure, which means that the heart is still working, but it isn’t pumping blood as well as it should, or getting enough oxygen.
  • Arrhythmia or an abnormal rhythm of the heart, which means the heart is either beating too fast, too slow or irregularly. This can affect how well the heart is functioning and whether or not the heart is able to pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.
  • Heart valve problems can lead to the heart not opening enough to allow proper blood flow. Sometimes the heart valves don’t close and blood leaks through, or the valve leaflets bulge or prolapse into the upper chamber, causing blood to flow backward through them.
How can I prevent it?

Many factors can put you at risk for these problems – some you can control and others you can’t. But the key takeaway is that with the right information, education, and care, heart disease in women can be treated, prevented, and even ended.

Studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Here are a few lifestyle changes you should make:

  • Don’t smoke
  • Manage your blood sugar
  • Don’t smoke
  • Get your blood pressure under control
  • Lower your cholesterol
  • Know your family history
  • Stay active
  • Lose weight
  • Eat healthfully
Eating foods low in cholesterol and saturated fats can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease. Though your favorite foods often include ingredients to avoid, you can eat right and still enjoy your meals if you follow a few simple guidelines:
  • Limit your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams per day and total fat to less than 30% of a day’s calories, including no more than 10% of calories from saturated fats. Check food labels for fat content.
  • Cholesterol is found in animal products such as meat, eggs and cheese. Saturated fats, those that remain solid at room temperature, are most commonly found in fatty cuts of meat, whole milk products, butter, and palm and coconut oils.
  • Eat plenty fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes such as dried peas and beans. These foods are rich in vitamins and can also help keep your cholesterol levels down.
  • Know that it’s okay to use butter and dressing as long as you use them in smaller portions. Also, give low-fat or nonfat products a try.

Additionally, it’s important to know the symptoms of a heart attack so you can act right away. The signs of a heart attack aren't the same for everyone. For some, symptoms are sudden and intense. For others, the symptoms are mild and begin slowly. Know the warning signs and act quickly – by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency room – if you think you're having a heart attack.

A heart attack does not always have obvious symptoms, such as pain in your chest, shortness of breath and cold sweats. In fact, a heart attack can actually happen without a person knowing it. It is called a silent heart attack, or medically referred to as silent ischemia (lack of oxygen) to the heart muscle.

It’s important to know your risk factors, be aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol, exercise regularly and avoid smoking to decrease your risk of a heart attack. Above all, listen to your body, and if something isn’t right, talk to a doctor.

To schedule an appointment (with a referral), call 417.347.5000 or request an appointment online.

Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute
1102 W. 32nd St.
Joplin, MO
888.66.HEART (43278)

Cardiology: 417.347.5000
Cardiothoracic Surgery: 417.347.5001

Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute – Miami
30 B Street SW
Miami, OK

Freeman Heart & Vascular Institute – Grove
1101 East 13th Street
Suites A, B and C
Grove, Oklahoma

View all cardiology clinics

Source: American Heart Association