A couple of months ago, Rosie O’Donnell saved my mom’s life with HEPPP, which is the acronym she made up to help women remember the signs of heart attacks in women – which are different than the classic signs in men.
HEPPP stands for heat, exhaustion, pain, pale, puke. Other signs of a heart attack can include jaw pain, toothache, headache, nausea, vomiting, epigastric pain or discomfort, heartburn or indigestion, sweating, arm pain, and a vague feeling of illness. In addition to these signs, please remember that cardiac chest pain is usually a dull, deep, squeezing chest pain rather than sharp, stabbing pains.
If my mom hadn’t remembered Rosie’s acronym, she might have blown off her symptoms and waited until it was too late. By going to the hospital early, she prevented a more major and more disastrous heart attack. And I couldn’t be more thankful!
Are you at risk?
If you have risk factors for heart disease, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or a family history of early heart disease – or if you are a smoker, are overweight, are inactive, or don’t eat a healthy diet, please please please pay attention to the signs!
If you’re exhausted and have one or more risk factors, especially if you’re having symptoms, first see your doctor! (And please note that if you’re a diabetic like my mom, you are at increased risk for silent heart attacks).
Then slowly but surely make these ten changes to your lifestyle to help support your heart and decrease your risk for a heart attack:
- Become more active. Start walking. Get a Fitbit and try for 10,000 steps. Try to exercise 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
- Improve your diet. The Mediterranean diet is a great place to start. Eat whole foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and low-fat sources of protein. Try to eat a pound of veggies a day! Eat omega-3-rich fish such as salmon and mackerel several times a week. Limit your intake of dairy and red meat.
- Eat Healthy fats. Eat fats from plant-based sources, such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil. Avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils.
- Limit alcohol intake. For healthy adults, that means no more than one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and no more than two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
- Strive for a healthy weight. If you are overweight, even a 5 – 10% weight loss can be helpful in decreasing your heart attack risk.
- Quit smoking! Did you know that your risk factor falls to that of a non smoker within five years of quitting? You can do it! It’s never too late. Smoking does all kinds of nasty things to your heart health, including raising your blood pressure and increasing the chance of blood clots.
- Supplement. Make sure you’re getting lots of antioxidants, vitamin E, folate, B6 and B12. (My new Heart Health Supplement Kit is a good source of all of these and more).
- Get enough sleep. Even if you don’t think you need it, your body does. Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night won’t kill you. But not getting proper sleep just might.
- Manage stress and anger. Chronic stress and anger are bad for the heart, in more ways than one. Give your heart a break and learn some anger and stress management techniques. Meditation is a great place to start.
- Get screened. When you go in for your annual exam, make sure to get your blood pressure, cholesterol, and hgbA1c checked. Prevention is always the best cure!