Take your health to heart

Heart disease month

Some things seem to creep up on us. Here you are going along with your life, and BAM–it’s already time to renew my tags again? Or, you know, past due as it usually happens in my world. Other examples of sneaky, sneaky annual obligations include holidays, tax season, and the well-woman visit. Listed in ascending order of which induces the greatest amount of dread, of course. Maybe it’s just me, but I dread this appointment more than any other because it’s that extra appointment on top of all of the other doctor appointments I have all year long. However, dread or not, I always make sure I make that appointment.

That wasn’t always the case though. Before I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at 21, I had never scheduled a well-woman visit. I was young, healthy, active and frankly, I just didn’t see the need. Even when there were signs all around me to remind me of the need to value my health and be proactive, regardless of my age. My brother who was diagnosed with a brain tumor when he was only 11, a friend the same age as me with a genetic predisposition for high cholesterol, my grandfather who suffered a heart attack, just to name a few. Do I think that a well woman visit would have helped catch my cancer earlier? Absolutely. By the time I finally gave in to my friends imploring me to be seen, I had a tumor the size of a basketball on my ovary. So yes, I do believe that had I scheduled a well-woman visit beforehand they would have noticed that something was off. I was so incredibly fortunate in that while my tumor grew very large, my cancer was still only Stage 1 by the time I had my surgery. In every way, my story is so very different than that of other women who face ovarian cancer. It is usually not detected until late stages when it is often too late. For this reason they call it the silent killer.

I didn’t intend to talk about cancer today, though. I only bring it up to drive home the point that a yearly well-woman visit is incredibly important, no matter your age or how healthy you feel. What I really want to talk about is heart disease, another silent killer of women. In fact, heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, killing more women than all types of cancer combined. The good news is that the American Heart Association estimates that 80% of all cardiovascular disease may be preventable. For women, that means–you guessed it–going for a well-woman visit every year to check blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol levels and more. If you haven’t had a well woman visit before, know what to expect and be prepared with these tips from Go Red for Women. In addition to scheduling your annual checkup, there are other ways to promote heart health including:

  • Learning the signs and symptoms of heart attack and stroke. Did you know that there are many symptoms women suffer that are different than a typical man’s symptoms?
  • Knowing your risk for cardiovascular disease. There are many factors to consider, from family history and age, to diet and exercise.
  • Get trained in CPR. Don’t want to wait? Watch this video to learn how to perform hands-only CPR. Then, find a CPR course offered near you.
  • Become an advocate for heart health in your family, school, workplace or community. Encourage your friends to get checked, teach your kids to eat healthy and exercise, advocate for more woman-related research.
  • Own your lifestyle. Eat right, exercise and don’t smoke.

Don’t let heart disease creep up on you. Early detection can make all the difference. Plus, it’s worth it to do something for your health and your peace of mind.

With this post, I’m joining other Northwest Arkansas Bloggers in #NWARKCares, an initiative to bring awareness to causes right where we live–using our collective voices on our blogs and social media.