What Women Need To Know About Heart Disease

What Women Need To Know About Heart Disease

I incorrectly thought Breast Cancer was the #1 disease that kills women. Turns out, it’s not the breast. 

I had breast cancer. My mother died from breast cancer. So, for a long time, I assumed that breast cancer was the leading cause of death in women. 


It was only when I was asked to do an ad for an insurance company in Singapore - where they had three breast cancer survivors tell our stories - the big reveal was that actually, breast cancer was not the number one killer. 


Heart disease was. 


In Singapore, in America, and in developed countries. 


So with February being Heart Awareness Month in America I decided to dig a little bit deeper. 

Heart Attack 

I admit, I have also been watching a lot of Grey's Anatomy with my family. There’s an episode where Dr. Miranda Bailey gets a heart attack. 


The doctors didn’t believe her because she didn’t have the classic symptoms that men get. You know, the clutching of the chest, the numbing of the arm.


I learnt from this episode that women experience different symptoms than men do. 


So I did a little search on it and it turns out women's symptoms of heart attacks are vastly, vastly different. 


And these symptoms can be mistaken for things that occur in everyday life.

Symptoms of Female Heart Attack 


Unexplained Fatigue. 

Sleep disturbances. 


Those symptoms can be experienced a month before the actual attack. 


If you ask me, these look like what a regular normal woman experiences daily.


I don’t know about you, but I get slightly anxious - or perhaps it’s more stressed - in my day to day life. 


As for fatigue, that’s due to me not sleeping well at all. I tend to have a good sleep every other night. Perhaps it’s due to drinking more caffeine (which I have because I feel tired. Vicious circle? I think so). 


Being a slight hypochondriac, I’m now feeling a tad uncertain and have been googling for heart doctors. You know, just to be on the safe side. 

Risks That Cause Heart Disease

Gleaned from the Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (USA) website, heart disease risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and smoking. 


Other conditions and lifestyle choices that increase risks are :


Being overweight and obese

Unhealthy diet

Physical inactivity.


Plaque is made up of cholesterol, minerals and fatty molecules. When plaque develops in the arteries and blood vessels that lead to the heart, this blocks oxygen and nutrients from entering the heart. So we want to make sure our arteries are allowing blood to flow freely. 


Estrogen reduces during menopause. This is the cycle of a woman as she gets older, and there are no ways out of hitting menopause. 


But estrogen keeps blood vessels open and flexible,  and reduces atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of arteries) by reducing the “bad” cholesterol, Low Density Lipoproteins (LDLs). 


Entering menopause does not mean you’re going to get a heart attack. You have to look at all the other factors too - your genetics, lifestyle choices and medical markers. 


We can’t change our genetics. But lifestyle choices? Now - that is something we can All change. And these changes can have a positive change on our medical markers. 

Lifestyle Choices

Smoking and Excessive Drinking

I used to smoke in my 20s. So there’s nothing worse than a born again ex-smoker. I know I don’t have to even write about why smoking is bad. It’s your choice to smoke or not. You can also drink to excess and “pah” your way through “I do NOT have a drinking problem”. 


But we are all adults here. 


You smoke because you’re addicted and life is too short anyway so why stop right? If you’re gonna smoke - you’re gonna smoke. Make your choice. But do so knowing what you may be giving up in return. 


As for excessive drinking, one person’s normal is another person’s excess. We all know we could do with drinking less, hence everyone lumbers from a hungover December into their Dry January. Only, to go back to Fill Me Up February. 


Again - I am not preaching because you know what the answer is. It’s your choice. 

Not enough physical activity

Ah, now here however, I can talk with authority. Because that’s what I get our clients to do.  Humans today really don’t move enough. And the exercises the majority of women do are not ‘hard’ enough. 


Try to get an exercise in daily - and yes, that can also include walks.


Lift weights. 


Do some sprints of some sort. Bad knees? Then try to get on a rowing machine. 


Don’t have access to a machine? Then climb a flight of stairs, walk down, then climb up again. Repeat 10 times. 


No stairs? Stand in the spot and do jumping jacks, or run on the spot as hard as you can. 


Set your timer for 30 seconds to do the sprint, then rest for the same amount of time. Repeat this for 5-10 rounds.  You should feel huffy and puffy. 


*Disclaimer Of course before embarking on any type of physical activity you really ought to get the go-ahead from your doctor first. And when you get the all clear- start huffing and puffing from exercise!

Healthy Diet

Sadly I can’t claim to have anything earth shattering and new. It’s the same old advice. 


Eat more vegetables (and mind how they’re cooked. Tempura vegetables aren't on the health list - FYI). 


Reduce red meat consumption. 


Have a couple of plant based days. 


Eat more oily fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. 


Eat good fibre like from rolled oats, brown rice and quinoa. 


Reduce the fatty stuff - like fried foods. Ditch that deep fat fryer that’s sitting in your kitchen. If you’re gonna have fried foods, make it a meal that you’ve worked hard to earn (like running up those stairs), and let a restaurant prepare them for you. 


Stress -  because high blood pressure remember? I honestly believe that daily stress can be avoided by this one tip.


Are you ready? 


Here it is :


Give yourself an extra 10-15 minutes to get somewhere. 


That’s right. Driving or catching public transport when you’re running late, can be one of the most stressful events of your day. 

Then, when you’re late, you’re rushing to get to that appointment and you are a bit snappier. 


You can’t find what you need, and your heart rate goes up because you think you may have left it at home. 


You’re breathing quick shallow breaths, thus firing up your Fight or Flight response (Sympathetic Nervous system). Adrenaline and cortisol shoot up and… 


See? Leave early. Give yourself some extra time to get somewhere. It will help you stay calm. 


Other stress relieving tips that are awash in the internet are :

  • Meditate - I still use Headspace nearly every day for 10 minutes

  • Spend time with people who make you happy

  • If you have a dog or a pet, spend time with them. 

  • Take up a hobby that feels cathartic - I hear knitting and crochet are making a comeback. 

  • Do something that relaxes you. 


And stay off the internet. News can get that pressure right up.


I don’t want to clutch my chest and drop down dead one day. I want to have time to spend with those I love, and to wither away in old age. 


Everytime I choose to do something that does not support “healthy lifestyle choices” - I am making a poor heart-health choice. I need to make much better choices, and with more regularity. 

Because we owe it to those who love us in return. 


I don't want to die from any chronic diseases, regardless of type. 


I want to be that old crinkly 90+ year old woman who dies in her sleep. Where, at my funeral people talk about how I was still so active! 


I don't want to be at any risk of developing any heart disease at all. So having read that and seeing what the symptoms are, I pledge to do better.

So who’s with me?


Who are we?

FitNut Loft delivers the Best pilates and strength training workouts for women in their 40s and 50s to be stronger, have more energy, lose weight and eliminate body pain as they age, in a safe non judgemental space. 


And we can’t wait to help thousands more women over the years. 



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