Campaign raises heart disease awareness in woman using red dress symbol and helps them prevent heart disease by learning heart facts

Red Dress Symbol Helps Prevent Heart Disease in Women

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can view it here.

CAMPAIGN RAISES HEART DISEASE AWARENESS IN WOMAN USING RED DRESS SYMBOL AND HELPS THEM PREVENT HEART DISEASE BY LEARNING HEART FACTS

As we all know by now, Michelle Obama wore a red dress to the inaugural ball. When she made her appearance it answered the biggest question since the election, “Who designed her gown?” I’m sure no one was thinking about her choice as a symbol for heart disease awareness in women.

But if seeing that Jason Wu gown was a reminder to women to learn our risk factors to prevent heart disease, it may have saved many lives. One woman out of every four in the United States will die from heart disease this year. Knowing the heart facts represented by that red dress is important for us all, but even more so for African American women whose rates of heart disease are twice those of white women.

What Is Heart Disease?

Any disease affecting the heart or the blood vessels that supply blood, oxygen and nutrients to it is a form of heart disease. It includes hypertension (high blood pressure), stroke (loss of blood to the brain), dysrhythmias (abnormalities in heart rhythm), cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), congestive heart failure (inability to pump sufficient blood), inflammatory heart disease (inflammation of the heart muscle) and rheumatic heart disease (infection in the heart).

These are not just diseases that happen to men or old people.

Heart disease occurs in women at the same rate as men, and at any age, but women are much less likely to pay attention to the early warning signs. That’s a problem because there is no cure for it. No pills, no procedures, no surgery can make heart disease go away. Once you have it you’ll always have it. Early intervention is the only way to minimize the damage and extend the quality of one’s life.

So what are we waiting for ladies?

What Can We Do To Prevent Heart Disease?

The risks for heart disease fall into two simple categories: Risks you can’t change and those you can. Age and family history fall into the first category. Smoking, being inactive or overweight are in the second.

I love this handy wallet card that lists the questions you should ask your doctor to find out your personal risk of heart disease. It provides a place to record the all-important “numbers” that help determine your risk, explains what the goals are for improving those numbers, and suggests things you can do to lower them. One recommendation is to adopt a heart-healthy diet, which is good for the entire family.

Are you ready to get started? With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, there will be plenty of red dresses to remind you. Once you know how to prevent heart disease, be sure to share the red dress story to raise heart disease awareness in your daughters, sisters, nieces, aunts, mothers, and other women in your life so they can lower their risk, too.

Avoid overeating at Christmas parties to reduce risk for weight gain in the New Year.

Is Overeating at Christmas Just One More Way to Splurge?

AVOID OVEREATING AT CHRISTMAS TO PROTECT YOUR HEALTH

It’s party season and with those parties comes the annual excuse to eat, drink and be merry! Then after splurging on too much food or booze there’s the all too familiar lament, “It was just this one time.” Trouble is, that particular “one time” may have been the annual Christmas party, while the next “one time” may be your birthday or wedding anniversary or you-name-it occasion that is just another excuse to overeat and drink.

Before you know it, those binges are happening on a regular basis. But no matter what the frequency, they are not good for your body or diet. The excess calories, fat, sodium and whatever else you swallow without tasting are nearly impossible to offset by weeks of sensible eating and drinking. Even one big splurge a year can trigger an inflammatory response that can leave permanent scars on your artery walls.

Believing that it’s okay to overindulge once in a while is like believing you can drive over the speed limit without wearing a seatbelt occasionally. Both are very risky behaviors that can have drastic consequences.

The sooner you get those eating and drinking binges under control, the better your health will be. Here’s why.

Our bodies do not rate us on how many “good” days of eating we’ve had against the number of “bad” days. Instead, the value of everything we eat and drink is counted as consumed. The goal is for the high numbers to get averaged down by lower ones so our totals add up right by the end of the week.

For example, if you have a caloric allowance of 2000 per day and eat 2200 calories on Monday, you need to eat just 1800 on Tuesday to average it out. Or you can eat 1900 on both Tuesday and Wednesday to offset the excess 200 calories. Or you can add another 30 minutes of moderate physical activity to your week to cancel them out.

But what if you splurge over the weekend and eat an extra 3000 calories or 80 grams of fat or 5000 mg of sodium? It’s not difficult to consume those values in one sitting, but scaling back on what and how much you eat in order to offset them is nearly impossible. There just aren’t enough days in the week to average those high numbers back into your diet.

The result is slow but steady weight gain, clogged arteries and high blood pressure, along with an increasing risk for numerous other preventable diseases. Splurging for just one day or even one meal is not worth it if you cannot repair the damage.

The best anti-splurging strategy during this holiday party season and throughout the rest of the year is a simple one. Don’t let refreshments become more important than relationships.

  • Connect with the people instead of your plate.
  • Talk and listen more, eat and drink less.
  • Leave with the number for a new contact, not another notch up on the scale.

Read more about the numbers that matter in my post:

Weight Control, Healthy Diet and Fitness Are All a Numbers Game

Metabolic Syndrome Causes Greater Disease Risk Than Obesity Alone

Metabolic Syndrome is Worse than Obesity

RISK FACTORS FOR HEART DISEASE, STROKE AND DIABETES INCREASE WITH METABOLIC SYNDROME

Metabolic Syndrome is what you have when you are overweight, and most of your excess weight is around your middle. Along with that apple shape you also have to have any two of these other conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and too little HDL, the good cholesterol.

The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 35% of American adults meet these criteria. This means only about half as many people have Metabolic Syndrome as those who are just overweight. But Metabolic Syndrome is far worse. It doubles your risk for heart disease and stroke and increases your risk for diabetes by five times.

How to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome?

The quickest way to tell if you have Metabolic Syndrome is to use a cloth tape measure to take an honest reading of your waist measurement. Place the beginning of the tape on top of one hip bone and bring it around your back, over the other hip bone, on top of your navel, then reconnect it at the hip bone. The tape should make a circle around you that is the same distance from the floor all the way around. Do this without pulling too tight or holding your breath. Now compare your reading to the values below to see if you are at risk.

Waist circumference: Women greater than 35 inches, Men greater than 40 inches

Medications: You use prescription drugs to lower cholesterol and to lower blood pressure

If your waist circumference is too large but you aren’t on two prescriptions, here are the numbers you need to have to avoid starting on medications and qualifying for Metabolic Syndrome.

  • Triglycerides: less than 150mg
  • HDL Cholesterol: over 50mg for women, 40mg for men
  • Blood Pressure: less than 130/85
  • Fasting Blood Sugar: less than 100mg

How do you treat Metabolic Syndrome?

There is no single treatment regimen for Metabolic Syndrome. Each risk factor – your weight, waist circumference, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood pressure – must each be managed in the best way possible to bring them back into a normal range.

The one common denominator to treating all of the risk factors, other than to quit smoking, is a healthier diet and more physical activity. Even if only a small amount of your excess weight is lost, a better diet and more exercise will improve your other numbers, and that’s important.

A study published this month in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that increasing the fiber content of the diet did more to lower the risk for Metabolic Syndrome than reducing the intake of saturated fat and cholesterol. Of course, controlling fat intake is important, but if you want to focus on foods you can add to your diet in place of some other foods you’re now eating, go for more high fiber whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. They belong in your daily diet for lots of other reasons that are good for your health, anyway, so why not get started?

Is your muffin top putting you at risk for Metabolic Syndrome?