Every first Friday in February, the American Heart Association celebrates “Go Red for Women Day”. This is a day set aside to create awareness for heart disease in women. We wear red outfits, share facts about heart disease and make commitments to take steps to prevent heart disease in ourselves and our loved ones.
Did you know that heart disease kills more women than breast and cervical cancer? Yet 80% of deaths from heart disease can be easily prevented. Did you also know that heart disease symptoms can vary slightly in women?
Are you at risk of heart disease?
Heart disease, heart attacks and strokes don’t just happen. They occur in people who have existing risk factors. These risk factors are often present for years, sometimes, without the person knowing. There are 2 categories of risk factors: Those you can’t do anything about: age, family history of heart disease or stroke, past history of heart disease or stroke, race. There are risk factors we can change, treat and control: Hypertension, Diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity, and lack of exercise.
What are your key numbers?
There are numbers everyone (including women) must know, and they must be up-to-date (not less than 6 months old). These numbers are health indices that let you know if you are at risk for heart disease, so you can take appropriate steps to improve them.
Blood pressure: Hypertension is the commonest risk factor for heart disease in Nigerians; blood pressure level should be less than 130/80mmhg.
Blood sugar: A blood sugar level of 126mg/dl and above is indicative of diabetes. Apart from heart disease and stroke, diabetes is also a common cause of kidney disease, blindness and limb amputations.
Cholesterol: A high level of “bad” cholesterol and/or low levels of “good” cholesterol predisposes to blockage of the blood vessels that supply the heart and brain, leading to stroke and heart attack.
BMI: Body Mass Index is a ratio of your weight in relation to your height. Normal BMI is between 18-24. BMI greater than 30 is a sign of obesity.
Waist circumference: Individuals that store fat around their abdomen are more prone to developing heart disease. Normal waist circumference should be less than 40 inches around for men, and less than 35 inches for women.
How do you know when there is a problem?
Symptoms of a heart attack:
Uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain in the center of the chest. It lasts more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back.
Pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.
Other signs such as breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Symptoms of a stroke:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden severe headache with no known cause
If you have ANY of the above symptoms, call an ambulance or get to an emergency room as quickly as possible.
What can you do on your own?
Preventing heart disease is a combination of lifestyle changes and disease control. We need to make a commitment to make it a priority. Remember, 80% of heart related deaths are preventable!
Daily exercise and increased physical activity will help reduce weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
Eating less salt, fat and processed food and more fruits and raw vegetables.
Stopping cigarette smoking and alcohol.
Getting adequate sleep and stress reduction
Control of hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol with adequate, appropriate medication.
Dr Monisola Adanijo FMCP a Cardiologist and the Medical Director at Naveen Healthcare.
With experience spanning over 20 years, she built her pathway in medicine and cardiology working in reputable medical centres such as Mecure Healthcare Limited, Barnes Hospital, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, University College Hospital, Ibadan, Chevron Hospital, Lagos to mention but a few.
Her passion for preventive cardiology led her to convene the Naveen Healthcare 10,000 Hearts Project, in order to help individuals detect, protect and correct cardiovascular diseases.
Skilled in cardiovascular diagnostic procedures and treatment, a fellow of the National Postgraduate Medical College of Nigeria, a member of Nigerian Cardiac Society, American College of Physicians, Hypertension society of Nigeria and an international associate of the American College of Cardiology. She also has a Diploma in Leadership and Management from the University of Washington, USA,
As a Continuous Medical Education (CME) provider, she has worked with the likes of Trigen Healthcare Solutions, Pfizer GP Academy, Diamond Helix Medical Assistance, Pfizer Pharmacy Academy, Global Health Project and Resources, Sanofi-Aventis Nigeria, Novartis Nigeria and Servier International. She has helped build capacity in Electrocardiogram interpretation, preventive cardiovascular diseases, management of heart failure, patient education and more.
She launched the first TeleElectrocardiogram project in Nigeria and West Africa and does her part in contributing to good health and wellbeing, a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG3) of the United Nations.