The Color of Courage

Red is a power color. It is often associated with bravery, courage, and strength. It is also the color for the month of February, which is nationally recognized as Women’s Heart Month. Red, I’d say, is the appropriate color to help us raise awareness about the number one killer of women. In fact, 1 in 3 women dies from heart disease annually (AHA, 2017).

This disease is often referred to as the “silent killer” – for several reasons.

  • The warning signs can be subtle and overlooked and even misdiagnosed.
  • The symptoms are different for women than they are for men
  • Much of the research has involved male subjects
  • It is hard to identify commonalities because the disease doesn’t affect all women alike

Step 1: Know the Risks

Fortunately, women can take active steps to prevent and/or treat heart disease. The first step is knowing your own level of risk. There are certain factors that we refer to as “nonmodifiable” meaning – we can’t control or change them. These include age, heredity (genetics), gender, race, and previous heart attack or stroke. That’s the downside.

But, there’s an upside! There are factors we can modify or control. These include high blood pressure, smoking, high blood cholesterol, lack of regular intentional physical activity, obesity or being overweight, and diabetes (Type II). These are what health professionals refer to as lifestyle factors. In other words, by eating a balanced diet, getting activity and quality sleep, and managing stress we can prevent or reduce our overall risk of developing heart disease (and various other lifestyle-related diseases).

Step 2: Know Your Numbers

It’s important to evaluate your risk factors with your primary care provider so that you can effectively manage your health. There are four primary numbers or measures of metabolic fitness that we are interested in testing and tracking. These are:

  • Total Cholesterol – have your doctor examine your HDL, LDL and VLDL levels. This will give him/her a better picture of your total risk.
  • Blood Pressure – ideally, this number should be less than 120/80mmHg
  • Fasting Blood Sugar – we want to see this less than 100mg/dL
  • BMI – less than 25 (keep in mind that this number, in absence of other measures is not very telling – it only takes into account height and weight – not body fat or lean tissue, which can create needless worry – this is my personal caution and caveat with BMI :)).

Step 3: Take Action

The AHA recommends Life’s Simple 7 to help women take action to prevent and fight this disease.

  1. Manage blood pressure
  2. Control cholesterol
  3. Reduce blood sugar
  4. Get active
  5. Eat better
  6. Lose weight
  7. Stop smoking

Step 4: Get Involved

As February is a month dedicated to raising awareness of heart disease in women, get involved, go red, and empower other women to do the same. Take it further and evaluate your own risk. The AHA offers some incredible resources, pamphlets, flyers, and educational tools to help spread the message and advocate for prevention. Here’s to #goredforwomen. These heels are made for kicking heart disease to the curb.

Visit these links for more resources:

AHA Heart Org.

Categories: Lifestyle

Erin Nitschke

Passionate wife, mother, college educator, writer, blogger, and health and fitness professional.


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