Don’t let your gender influence your response to heart concerns: heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women. Unfortunately, women are at a disadvantage when it comes to lifestyle measures that protect heart health as they often don’t realise that heart disease is as much of a threat to them as it is to men. They are less likely than men to believe they’re having a heart attack and therefore are more likely to put off seeking treatment. In addition, doctors tend to treat women less aggressively with surgery, beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors or even aspirin after a heart attack.
The best way to approach treatment is to know the symptoms and act promptly. Common symptoms of a heart attack shared by both genders include:
• Chest discomfort
• Arm discomfort
• Shortness of breath
• Sweating and clammy skin
• Stomach pain and feelings of indigestion
Symptoms specific to women:
Additionally, women are more likely than men to experience unusual fatigue, sleep disturbances and anxiety, as well as throat, jaw and neck discomfort during a heart attack. If you experience these symptoms and feel you are having a heart attack, don’t delay dialling 999 – the most effective window for treatment occurs during the first 60 minutes of symptoms.
Breathing and your heart health
It’s not just diet and exercise that make for a healthy heart, relaxation is also important. Whether you want to try meditation, visualization, breath work or other mind-body therapies such as massage, you (and your heart) won’t regret it. One of the simplest ways to calm your body is also free and portable: breathing. Dr. Weil’s favorite is the 4-7-8 (Relaxing) Breath.
Briefly, you begin by breathing in through your nose for a count of four, hold your breath for a count of seven, then exhale through your mouth to a count of eight. This breath – and many more – are available on Spontaneous Happiness, along with video instruction of Dr. Weil practicing the exercises at www.drweil.com
The role of progesterone in heart health
Progesterone is protective of heart health and can help with high blood pressure, a condition that can lead to heart concerns. Like many other hormone problems it is oestrogen dominance that can be a major factor for heart disease and hypertension. Oestrogen and Progestins found in the Pill/Coil/HRT adversely affect cell membranes resulting in sodium and water influx into cells (causing water retention) and loss of potassium and magnesium. Progesterone acts as a diuretic, this helps reduce weight as this excess water is excreted and the blood pressure returns to normal.