Guard Your Heart

Due to the increasing awareness of breast cancer through the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, and the pink ribbon campaigns, women are more diligent about getting their annual mammograms. If asked what the leading cause of death is for women, most would reply, “Breast cancer or other types of cancer.” However, that is not the case. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. With this information, what do women need to do to guard their hearts?

            “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it (Prov. 4:23 NIV).

There are several factors that can increase a woman’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

  • Blood pressure: Uncontrolled blood pressure can lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and eye disease. New guidelines state that blood pressure should be under 135/85. Exercising daily, limiting salt in the diet, and reducing stress can help lower blood pressure.
  • Cholesterol: In women, high levels of triglycerides and low levels of HDL (good cholesterol) increase a woman’s risk of heart disease. Part of the reason is that, as women age, estrogen levels decrease. Prior to entering menopause, estrogen helps by increasing HDL levels and lowering triglyceride levels. Women can help this by following a low carbohydrate diet (limiting bread, pasta, potatoes) and exercising daily.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. This is true for both men and women. However, for women, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease is much higher than in men. Therefore, it is important for women to get regular blood work to follow their fasting blood sugars and hemoglobin A1c (which is a marker for diabetes).
  • ObesityI know ladies, this is not a fun one. However, if a woman’s BMI (body mass index) is over thirty,  then she is considered obese. This can increase a woman’s risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle: As you can see, there is a pattern here. Exercise must be an integral part of a woman’s daily routine. Even a small amount of exercise can be beneficial and help reduce a woman’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. There are numerous fitness apps or fitness watches that help with logging food and calories and tracking steps. Taking small steps and setting short-term goals will help in accomplishing your long-term goal of heart health!

Women should also be aware that the signs of a heart attack can be much different in women than in men. Most people know that if they develop chest pain, it could be a sign of a heart attack. However, for women, a month prior to a heart attack, they may be experiencing unusual fatigue, shortness of breath, indigestion, nausea, anxiety, arm weakness, or a racing heart. During a heart attack, women may experience chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, nausea, fatigue, breaking out in a cold sweat, and arm heaviness or weakness.

As you can see, the symptoms women experience prior to or during a heart attack can be quite different. Therefore, it is crucial to pay attention to persistent or prolonged symptoms that are not normal for you. Talking to your health care provider and getting annual physicals and blood work are equally important.

The Bible states, Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? (1 Cor.  6:19 ESV)God has given us instructions to care for our bodies and we should also care for our hearts!

This includes our spiritual hearts as well. We must follow Him and seek Him with all our hearts. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength” (NLT),  And Ezekiel 36:26 says, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (NLT).

So, our instructions are clear. Let’s work toward physical heart health as well as spiritual heart health and become all that God has ordained for us!

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