Contributing Author: Dr. Bonni Cohen, PhD(c), DNP, APRN, ANP-C, FNP-C, CNE, FAANP, FNU Associate Professor and Course Coordinator
February is American Heart Month and the time for everyone to take a closer look at their cardiovascular health. Heart disease is sometimes thought of as a man’s disease, but an equal number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. Frontier Nursing University (FNU) is dedicated to promoting optimal health and educating our community on ways you can manage your health and prevent disease on your own and with the help of nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives. Our dedicated faculty members, including contributing author Dr. Bonni Cohen, PhD(c), DNP, APRN, ANP-C, FNP-C, CNE, FAANP, are practicing practitioners who are continually educating themselves on the latest health care guidelines and research. Dr. Cohen is a strong cardiovascular advanced practice nurse who teaches cardiovascular course content in FNU’s top ranked Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP) program.
FACT: One in five American women will die from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Despite there being more awareness of the signs and symptoms of heart disease over the last decade, the CDC states that only about 56% of women recognize that heart disease is their number one killer,” Dr. Cohen said.
- Overweight or Obesity
- Eating an unhealthy Diet
- Physical Inactivity
- Drinking too much alcohol
“There are many risk factors but even more simple steps you can take to make a huge difference in your heart health,” Dr. Cohen said.
The good news? You can take small steps to improve your heart health every day.
1. Eat a heart healthy diet. Choose low sodium and salt foods; limit foods that have trans fat, like pastries and fried food; and cut back on sugar.
2. Manage your health conditions. Take your medicines as directed and get your blood pressure and cholesterol tested regularly. If you have diabetes, check your blood sugar level on a regular basis.
3. Know the facts about aspirin. Some people take aspirin every day to help prevent a heart attack or stroke, but it is not right for everyone. Ask your healthcare provider if you should use aspirin.
4. Know the signs of a heart attack in women, including:
- Heavy ache (dull or sharp) in your chest or back between your shoulder blades
- Pain in your neck, jaw or throat
- Pain in your upper abdomen or back
- Shortness of breath
- Breaking out in a cold sweat
- Unusual or unexplained tiredness
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
While the most common symptom for both women and men is chest discomfort, you can have a heart attack without experiencing chest pain or pressure. Women are more likely to have other symptoms such as back pain, jaw pain, shortness of breath, indigestion, and nausea or vomiting.
5. Quit Smoking. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, learn the ways available to quit.
6. Manage stress levels by finding healthy ways to cope with stress: Meditation, Yoga, Massage.
“I strongly recommend talking with your healthcare provider about your heart health, even if you don’t think you are presenting any symptoms,” Dr. Cohen said. “As a practitioner myself, we would rather you come to us for preventative care rather than seeing us once you sense there is a problem.”
Did you know you can see your nurse practitioner for heart health? According to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), almost 12,500 nurse practitioners have a clinical focus in cardiology. Nurse practitioners aim to focus on preventative care and educate their patients, improving their patient’s long-term health.
FNU raised awareness for heart disease on National Wear Red Day, February 4th by having faculty and staff members wear red. National Wear Red Day occurs on the first Friday in February each year.
To learn more about heart disease and what you can do to improve your heart health, go to the FDA Office of Women’s Health website. This February and beyond, protect your heart by making good heart health decisions!