Cardiovascular diseases are the number 1 killers. So, in 1963, Congress required the president to proclaim February "American Heart Month." Hopefully people will grow in awareness and take positive actions to ward off the little killers. First it is smart to get knowledgeable about heart disease.

The Heart Truth
According to the American Heart Association an estimated 81,100,000 Americans have 1 or more types of cardiovascular disease. Symptoms vary for each killer, and not all people present with the same symptoms. Specifically, women and heart disease are a deadly mix. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of American women.

Risk Factors

  1. Age increase.
  2. Family history of heart disease.
  3. Overweight - especially if diabetic.
  4. Smoking tobacco (the major cause of heart disease in women).
  5. High blood cholesterol.
  6. High blood pressure.
  7. Previous TIA (transient ischemic attack), heart attack, or stroke.
  8. Lack of exercise or physical activity.
  9. Excessive, and/or binge drinking of alcoholic drinks.
  10. Stress.

When your blood supply (which has oxygen and food) is diminished to your brain, a stroke happens. Warning signs are:

  • Numbness or weak face, arm, leg or one side of body.
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Dizzy, trouble walking, or loss of coordination.
  • Severe headache with no known cause.

If you are with someone who you think is having a stroke be sure to call emergency (911), and note the time you noticed the symptoms. There are certain drugs that can be administered within a time frame that will help, if you know the time, so tell the dispatcher the time you noticed the symptoms and the symptoms.

Recently I received an email from a friend with some new reminders about stroke. There is another warning sign - the tongue. Ask the person to stick out his tongue, and if it is crooked or goes to one side then it is a stroke sign. Another reminder is the acronym STR. S is for smile, T is for talk, and R is to be able to raise both arms. Find out if the person is able to do those things, and if he has trouble with any of them call emergency.

Heart Attack
When your blood supply is blocked from getting to your heart (usually by a clot in an artery), then a heart attack happens. Warning signs are:

  • Chest discomfort.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Discomfort in other areas of upper body.
  • Feeling lightheaded.
  • Nausea.
  • Cold sweat.

Most heart attacks start slowly. Women are more likely to have nausea, short breath, and back or jaw pain. Another name for heart attack is myocardial infarction (MI). Some people have a silent heart attack or MI, with no symptoms.

Heart muscle cells are permanently damaged when oxygen rich blood can't get to the heart. Just like a stroke, you should get emergency help for diagnosis and treatment. Noting the time of the symptoms is just as important for heart attack. Some of the drugs that may be given are aspirin, antiplatelets to prevent clotting, and ones to dissolve blood clots in the heart's arteries. Open heart surgery is another treatment.

Unfortunately, if you have had a stroke or a heart attack, it doesn't mean you are cured after treated. That is why you should know the risks and begin corrective action preferably before you experience one of the killers. If that didn't happen, then do take the correct actions after treatment to help avoid another occurrence.