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by Kaitlin Garrett
Heart health is a growing concern for people all over the world but, in particular, for women who live in Kentucky.
“The reason women in Kentucky are more at risk is mostly related to an unhealthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Alison Bailey, director of cardiac rehab at the University of Kentucky Healthcare.
Although more women are affected by cardiovascular disease, both sexes are equally at risk. Men and women in Kentucky are even at a higher risk for developing heart disease than most people in the United States. “Kentucky men and women have some of the worst profiles in the nation,” says Bailey.
More than one out of four deaths in the state result from heart disease. Smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, obesity, and inactivity all put residents at greater than average risk. “Leading a healthy lifestyle is the best advice I could give,” Bailey says. She encourages people in the state to not only stop smoking but to avoid secondhand smoke as well.
Bailey also recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise daily. “Walking is perfect,” she says, adding that more than half of those diagnosed with cardiovascular disease report not getting any for the month prior to their diagnosis. Bailey suggests incorporating exercise in daily routines such as taking the stairs, doing yard work, or cleaning house.
Eating well contributes to a healthy lifestyle, says Bailey. Overeating is dangerous, but difficult to avoid in our fast food culture with easy access to foods with high sugar and high fat, she adds.
“Try to eat as close to nature as possible,” Bailey says. She explains that the fewer ingredients in food, the healthier the food is. She suggests incorporating four to five fruit and vegetable servings a day into each Kentuckian’s diet.
Bailey says that a 50-year-old woman living with two or more risk factors increases her chances of heart disease from the 5 percent chance a 50-year-old woman living a healthy lifestyle has to more than 50 percent.
Although cardiovascular disease affects both men and women equally, there are often different symptoms. Men usually experience crushing chest pain during a heart attack, says Bailey, while women often experience pain just under the breastbone and abdominal area, indigestion, difficulty breathing, nausea and/or unusual fatigue.
Bailey warns that many people with heart disease underestimate the severity of their condition. She advises Kentuckians to see a doctor any time changes in the body occur.
Kaitlin Garrett is a University of Kentucky journalism student.