Women who care for others should put their own health needs first to prevent heart disease. The stress of caregiving may cause a faster plaque buildup in the arteries, said Dr. Priya Sateesha, a cardiologist with Centegra Physician Care.
“The stress of caring for others can cause women to neglect their own health,” Sateesha said. “Stress can affect behaviors that increase a person’s risk for heart disease. When we’re stressed it’s harder to eat well and we may not make time to exercise. Some people turn to cigarettes or alcohol. These habits can damage our arteries and increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels.”
Sateesha recommends that women schedule annual checkups with their primary care physicians to help them understand the risks for heart disease.
Women have the same heart disease risk factors as men. These include smoking, being overweight, having high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol. All of these factors can be improved with lifestyle changes.
“Small changes can have a big impact when it comes to heart disease,” Sateesha said. “I tell my patients to slowly work healthier choices into their days rather than make a dramatic change that is hard to maintain.”
As with men, women’s most common heart attack is chest pain or discomfort. Women may experience pressure, squeezing, pain or fullness in the chest. They may also feel pain or discomfort in the arms, neck or stomach.
“Women are more likely than men to experience other heart attack symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, shortness of breath, back pain and jaw pain,” Sateesha said. “Any person who experiences these symptoms should call 911 immediately so emergency medical services can provide the most appropriate treatment on the way to the hospital.”
To schedule an appointment with Sateesha at Centegra Physician Care, call 815-338-6600 or visit centegra.org/cpc.