Franz Salas first learned about heart disease – the number one cause of death in the U.S. – when he was 10 years old. “Sitting in my buddy’s room, we heard a loud crash … We got out of the room, and in the kitchen, we see his mom, face down and unconscious. We didn’t know what happened,” he said. After paramedics rushed her to the hospital, Salas found out that his friend’s mom had a stroke. While she had survived at the time, she suffered from memory loss and speech impairments for the next five years before dying of a heart attack. “This really, really impacted us as we went through our formidable years. These two events – the master stroke and heart attack – happened in a short period of time and could have been prevented,” he said. Years later, Salas said he still often wonders – if there was more awareness surrounding women’s heart health, would she have lived longer?
Salas, who now works as the healthcare enterprise account executive at Google in Detroit, shared his story at American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Luncheon at Little Caesars Arena on Friday, Feb. 21. The Go Red campaign, which Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan sponsors locally, is dedicated to removing the barriers women face to achieving good health and wellbeing. Heart disease and stroke cause one in three deaths among women — more than all cancers combined – yet up to 80% of cardiac events can be prevented. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who was the keynote speaker at the event, said, “Red is a fierce color, and heart disease is a fierce opponent. Preventing and raising awareness of cardiovascular disease is incredibly important because so few people really understand how serious this threat is.” “One woman dies every 80 seconds from heart disease. Nearly 45 percent of women 20 or older are living with some form of cardiovascular disease. These numbers won’t go down unless we continue to raise awareness and ensure that every woman has the resources to build a healthier lifestyle.” Gov. Whitmer said her administration is working to ensure that there are more opportunities for exercise, education and healthy affordable food for women and their families and to close the gender gap when it comes to cardiovascular disease research.
“We all benefit when we improve outcomes for women and avoid heart disease, which is killing too many Michigan women every year,” she said. Prevention and Awareness The American Heart Association encourages women of all ages to take charge of their heart health by:
- Getting screened for risk factors of cardiovascular disease. A Well-Woman Visit is covered by most health plans and Medicare thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
- Knowing your numbers — total cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index — and working to improve your numbers if necessary.
- Including fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack.
- Limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance.
- Getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity.
Heart attacks and strokes are life-or-death emergencies, so if you recognize symptoms in yourself or another, you need to dial 9-1-1 immediately. Every second counts; the longer a person goes without treatment, the greater the damage. Symptoms of a heart attack may be immediate and intense. More often, though, symptoms start slowly and persist for hours, days or weeks prior to a heart attack. The most common heart attack symptom for both women and men is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely than men to experience other common symptoms, particularly shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting and back or jaw pain. Stroke symptoms are usually sudden and include numbness, especially on one side of the body; dizziness or loss of balance; trouble speaking or understanding; severe headache with no known cause; and blurred vision in one or both eyes. By making a healthy lifestyle a priority by moving more, eating smart and managing blood pressure, you significantly reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Visit www.ccctracker.com/aha to track your physical activity, diet and blood pressure. For more information, visit heart.org or goredforwomen.org. Related content: