Rosie O’Donnell’s brush with death was undoubtedly a scary wake up call for women all over the county, but for me the scare hit much closer to home. Six days ago one of my closest friends also suffered a heart attack. Unlike Rosie, who is a self proclaimed junk food junkie, my friend is a slender, petite, no nonsense stay at home mom. I was shocked by her news, to say the least. Unfortunately heart disease is the number one killer amongst women, and single moms are no exception.  There are many resources to help prevent heart issues from happening. Below are 5 healthy heart things you should know.

WOMEN’S SYMPTOMS ARE SUBTLE

Although chest pain can be a symptom of a heart attack for a woman, often the signs can be more subtle. Single moms may also experience what are called “atypical” symptoms, including:

  • Back, jaw, lower chest, or upper belly pain or discomfort
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness

CALL 911

Many single moms will have a set of symptoms up to a month before the actual heart attack. Some women have cold flushes or break out in a sweat, a clammy sweat. Shortness of breath is a common symptom. Some women have stabbing pain in their back. Often too busy with the family or the children they’ll ignore their symptoms or don’t think much of it. They certainly don’t think it could be a heart attack. Physicians warn not to ignore any of these signs. If you suspect you are having a heart attack take aspirin and call 911,  even if you are wrong, any delay and you are right can cause more damage.

HEART DISEASE RISK FACTORS

There are five traditional risk factors which all play an equal role, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar or diabetes, smoking and family history of early heart disease. Excess weight can contribute to heart risk factors particularly in a woman’s mid-section, this is my friends issue, she is slim except for her the small amount of weight she carried in her belly. According to the University of Michigan scientists belly fat appears to boost inflammation and it is linked to worse atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries which makes heart attacks more likely. Stress is also a key factor because it can lead to increased chemicals and hormones in the blood stream, which raise blood pressure and heart rate. Again this played a part in my friends issue.

HEART DISEASE PREVENTION

To lower stress and rid your body of belly fat single moms are encouraged to exercise at least 30 minutes, a day 3 to 5 days a week, at a vigorous intensity. Fast paced walking or running for one minute followed by two minutes of moderate walking is ideal. A thirty minute bike ride is another great way to exercise. Take your kids to the park and play with them, that doesn’t mean sitting on the bench gossiping with the other moms, that means pushing the swing, chasing them around the park, play hopscotch or jump rope! Even moderate to intense housework, such as vacuuming or scrubbing a floor, can be considered a workout. And to relieve stress try yoga or meditation. Nothing is more important than your health, you are the woman your children depend on…be there for them!