National Heart Health Month: Do you know your resting heart rate?
Posted by Catherine Morgan on February 5, 2009
Just in time for National Heart Health month, a new study has been released about women and their risk for heart disease. Are you at risk?
Do you know what your resting heart rate is? I know mine and it’s high, it has always been high. It doesn’t matter what my blood pressure is, my heart rate is high. When my blood pressure is high, my heart rate is high. And when my blood pressure is low, my heart rate is still high. I even take a medication to lower my heart rate, and my resting heart rate is still never lower than 90 (it’s usually over 100). So you can imagine how I felt after reading about a study linking women with high resting heart rates to an increased risk for heart attack.
A woman’s resting pulse rate is a good predictor of her heart attack risk regardless of other risk factors, such as smoking and alcohol consumption, researchers say.
A team of scientists analyzed records of 129,135 postmenopausal women who had no history of heart problems. Their pulse rates were measured at the start of the study. The researchers found that during almost eight years of follow-up, women with the highest heart rates — at or above 76 beats per minute — were much more likely to suffer a heart attack than the women with the lowest resting pulse rates, 62 beats per minute or less.
Even more scary…
The relationship between resting heart rate and coronary risk was stronger in women less than 65 years old than in women over 65.
I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I’m eating right and losing weight…But there’s still a good chance a heart attack is in my future. That really sucks. I guess the only good thing about knowing you are at a greater risk for a heart attack, is that you can choose to be aware and more attentive to possible signs and symptoms.
- Chest pain – may include back pain and/or deep aching and throbbing in one or both arms
- Breathlessness and/or inability to catch your breath when waking up
- Clammy sweating
- Dizziness — unexplained lightheadedness and possible blackouts
- Anxiety — unusual nervousness, feelings of impending doom
- Edema — fluid retention and swelling in the ankles or lower legs
- Fluttering, rapid heartbeats or palpitations
- Nausea or gas
- Feeling of heaviness, such as pressure-like pain between the breasts that may radiate to the left arm or shoulder
Research by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) indicated that women often experience different physical symptoms of heart attack than men. These symptoms can be felt as long as a month or more before the actual cardiac event. In a study of 515 women, 95 percent said they knew something was different a month or more before experiencing a heart attack. The most common symptoms were fatigue (70.6 percent), sleep disturbance (47.8 percent) and shortness of breath (42.1 percent). Fewer than 30 percent of women reported experiencing chest pain or discomfort prior to their heart attack, and even though 43 percent reported having no chest pain during the attack, most doctors continue to consider chest pain the most important symptom in both women and men. Women in the study also reported experiencing indigestion and anxiety prior to having a heart attack. During the actual heart attack, the most common symptoms reported by women were shortness of breath and weakness.
From Steph at Problem Solvin’ Mom…
As someone who has been very personally affected by heart disease, I do my best to live a heart healthy lifestyle and be an advocate for the American Heart Association and its programs. Are you familiar with the Go Red for Women campaign? It’s a great program designed to help inform and empower women to live heart healthy lifestyles, know their risk factors, and understand the symptoms of a heart attack.
Here are some simple steps to love your heart, courtesy of the AHA:
This is from a post I did on women and heart disease…
You should know that…Women are at a very high risk for heart disease and heart attacks. In fact, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women over 65. American women are 4 to 6 times more likely to die of heart disease than of breast cancer. Women are also less likely to survive a heart attack than a man.
The biggest factors that contribute to heart disease are smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, family history and age. Take some time to look at your lifestyle, family history and your general health. Even though you can’t do much about your family history or your age, you can make lifestyle changes to avoid many of the other risk factors. Here is a list of what doctors recommend:
Don’t smoke. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease in women. More than half of the heart attacks in women under 50 are related to smoking. If you stop smoking, you can lower your risk of heart attack by one third within 2 years. Women who smoke and use birth control pills increase their risk even more.
Control your blood pressure. Treating high blood pressure can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. Losing weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet are all ways to help control high blood pressure. Reducing how much salt you consume can also help. If these steps don’t lower your blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medicine for you to take.
Control your cholesterol level. If you don’t know your level, ask your doctor to check it. Diet is a key part of lowering high cholesterol levels. However, some people may need to take medicine in addition to diet and exercise.
Exercise regularly. Remember, your heart is a muscle. It needs regular exercise to stay in shape. Aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging or biking, gives your heart the best workout. You can also use fitness equipment like exercise bicycles, treadmills and ski machines when exercising indoors. Finding an exercise partner may make it easier and safer for you to exercise often. You should exercise at least 30 to 60 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Eat a low-fat diet. Keep fat calories to 30% or less of the total calories you eat during a day and avoid saturated fat (the fat in meats and coconut oil). Information is available to help you make healthy choices. For example, food labels list nutrition information, including fat calories, many cookbooks have heart-healthy recipes, and some restaurants serve low-fat dishes.
Be aware of chest pain. Be sure to contact your doctor immediately if you suffer from pain in your chest, shoulder, neck or jaw. Also notify your doctor if you experience shortness of breath or nausea that comes on quickly. If you are having a heat attack, the faster you can get to the hospital, the less damage will happen to your heart. Every second counts.