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5 tips for heart health

February is American Heart Month, and it’s important to bring awareness to men and women alike. Think about it this way: Do you clean your house? Do you make sure your kids and spouse have everything they need? Now ask yourself, “What am I doing to take care of myself?”

Heart problems affect women, not just men. Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year? Educating yourself on how to take care of yourself is the first step toward protecting yourself against this serious concern. Here are five heart health tips to keep in mind. By using these simple tips, you can help manage your risks and know what to do if you have symptoms.

Know your risk factors.

Risk factors can be broken into two categories, controllable and uncontrollable.

Controllable: Uncontrollable:
High blood pressure Age
Smoking Gender
High blood cholesterol Family history
Lack of regular physical activity Race
Being obese or overweight Previous stroke or heart attack

Men and women both share these risk factors, but additional factors may come into play for women. Factors that may increase the risk for heart disease include starting your period at an early age, pregnancy-related conditions like gestational diabetes, early menopause, and being post-menopausal. The more risk factors, the higher your risk of developing heart disease.

It’s important to talk with your doctor about your risk and understand the meaning by knowing your numbers. For details on getting your numbers and what they mean, visit these blog posts:

Get an annual check-up and make the most of your visit.

  • Ask for a prescription for routine lab work and have your blood work done before your visit. This will allow time for your physician to review the results and discuss at your next visit.
  • Update your doctor on any health changes and the medications you take.
  • Make a list of questions you want to ask your doctor.

Focus on living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

  • Eat a diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean poultry, fish, low-fat dairy products, and other heart-healthy foods.
  • Get regular physical activity. Any movement has benefits, and you can start to experience those benefits after your first bout of exercise. Check out the new physical activity guidelines here!
  • Quit smoking and using tobacco products.
  • Find healthy ways to beat stress, such as physical activity, hobbies, or meditation.

As a UPMC Health Plan member, you have access to health coaches who can help with making healthy lifestyle changes.

Listen to your body and know the signs and symptoms.

Remember, you know your body better than anyone else. If you have a feeling that something is wrong, listen to that feeling.

Signs and symptoms:

  • Pressure or pain in your chest that comes and goes
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Pain in your jaw, arm, or back
  • Fatigue

Be safe rather than sorry.

If you notice or experience these signs and symptoms, then proceed with caution and get yourself checked out.  It’s better to have a false alarm and peace of mind than to take a chance that “it’s nothing.”

Call 911 or have someone take you to the local emergency room.

Go Red for Women

To learn more about heart disease in women and the efforts of the Go Red for Women campaign, visit

What can you do today to take action against heart disease?