The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) met virtually on April 10. DAR member Dianna Hacker-Taylor, RN, MSN, CPNP, FNP-BC was the main speaker and presented a program that aligned with the 2020-2021 DAR Women’s Issues National Theme of Health: Preventing Heart Attack and Stroke.
Ms. Hacker-Taylor began with the shocking statistic that cardiovascular disease claims the lives of one in three women in the U.S., and is the leading cause of death for all women worldwide. Prevention includes the recognition of risk factors that increase the chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. There are two categories of risk factors – modified and non-modifiable. Risk factors that can be modified include smoking, diet, alcohol intake, weight, exercise, and controlling diabetes. Non-modifiable risk factors are things that cannot be changed such as ethnicity, age, family history, and gender. With the proper preventive measures, heart disease and stroke prevention can be as high as 80%.
Ms. Hacker-Taylor further explained that after menopause the risk for women experiencing a myocardial infarction increases significantly. The majority of heart attacks occur in women older than 65 years, and there’s an increased incidence for African Americans due to the increased prevalence of hypertension in that population. It’s important, Ms. Hacker Taylor noted, to understand that menopause is a life transition that does not cause cardiovascular disease. However, a decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor in heart disease increase among post-menopausal women. Estrogen is believed to have a positive effect on the inner layer of artery walls helping to keep blood vessels flexible, meaning they can relax and expand to accommodate blood flow. However, despite the benefits of estrogen, the American Heart Association recommends against using postmenopausal hormone therapy to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke because some studies have shown it appears to not reduce the risk.
Even though heart disease is the number one killer of women in the U.S., women often chalk up the symptoms to less life-threatening conditions like acid reflux, the flu or normal aging, so it’s important for women to know the symptoms. The most common symptom of a heart attack is chest pain or discomfort such as tightness, heaviness, and/or pressure. Other common symptoms include – lightheadedness, nausea, or vomiting; jaw, neck, or back pain; shortness of breath; diaphoresis (sweating). Signs that someone is experiencing an acute heart attack include a sudden loss of responsiveness and absence of normal breathing. The person may be gasping for air. If you think you’re having a heart attack, immediately chew and swallow two baby aspirins, and call 911 to be transported to the emergency room to receive a medical evaluation. It is important that you as well as your significant others learn CPR, which is an important life-saving skill. Contact the American Heart Association for a class near you.
Women should take care of their hearts by taking care of themselves. First, by quitting smoking, which can cut the risk of coronary heart disease by 50% in just one year. Start an exercise program. Walking just 30 minutes a day can lower your heart attack and stroke risk, so women should aim for at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week to help prevent heart disease. Modify your diet, if needed. While limiting red meat and sugary foods and beverages, eat fruits, vegetable, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, and nuts. Also, schedule an appointment with your healthcare provide to learn your personal risk for heart disease.
Ms. Hacker-Taylor pointed out that it’s also important for women to understand strokes. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from getting oxygen and nutrients. Brain cells begin to die in minutes. Therefore, women should know the warning signs. One of the easiest ways to remember may be by learning the acronym (Spot a Stroke) F.A.S.T. – face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, time to call 911. Here are some important questions to ask if you think someone has had a stroke: Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Is one arm weak or numb? Does one arm drift downward? Is the speech slurred and are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Can they repeat a sentence correctly? If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.
Additional symptoms of a stroke may include numbness on one side of the body, sudden confusion, trouble seeing in one or both eyes, trouble walking, loss of coordination and dizziness, and a sudden severe headache with no known cause. Risk factors for strokes are similar to those of cardiovascular disease – smoking, obesity, medications, heart disease, physical inactivity, stress, alcohol, high blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol.
The American Heart Association’s national Go Red for Women® movement is a comprehensive platform designed to increase women’s heart health awareness, and aid in changing life-style choices to help improve heart health. Therefore, much of the program focused on that platform. To bring greater awareness to these health issues, February is Wear Red for Heart Health Month and the first Friday in February is national Wear Red Day. Additionally, May is National Stroke Awareness Month. (www.heart.org).
In other news, the Somerset Chapter Regent announced at the meeting that the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery will be celebrated this November, and Americans are encouraged to plant Never Forget Gardens. The Never Forget Garden Project is a nationwide invitation to all Americans and freedom loving people to plant gardens as a visual way to represent unwavering commitment to our sacred duty to recognize, remember, and honor our veterans and their families now and for many years to come. For more information, visit the official website by going to: https://tombguard.org/centennial/projects#never-forget-garden.