Department of Health Provides Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine urged all residents, especially women, to take steps to keep their heart healthy. Heart disease impacts both men and women, as the number of women who die each year from heart disease in the United States is almost equal to the number of men.

“Heart disease and associated illnesses are by far the leading cause of death in Pennsylvania and in the United States,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “It is essential that women know the signs and symptoms of heart disease, as they are often different from those in men. We are committed to a healthy Pennsylvania and always work to promote behaviors that reduce the risk of disease, including heart disease.”

Four of the top five leading causes of death among all Pennsylvanians are heart disease related. For women, heart disease related deaths accounted for nearly 78% of all deaths in 2017, and for black women, that number was close to 81%. However, that number is down from nearly 85% in 2013.

Some women with heart disease have no symptoms, but others may have a dull and heavy or sharp chest pain; pain in the neck, jaw or throat; and pain in the upper abdomen or back. Women may also have other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Sometimes, heart disease may be silent and not diagnosed until other symptoms or emergencies occur, like a heart attack, arrhythmia (fluttering feeling in the chest), or heart failure.

It is important to see your doctor and have your blood pressure and cholesterol checked regularly to reduce your risk of heart disease. In addition, there are other steps you can take to proactively work to have a healthy heart:

  • Eat healthy;
  • Be physically active;
  • Maintain a healthy weight;
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke;
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure;
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation; and
  • Manage stress.

In addition to the ways you can work to keep a healthy heart, it is also important to realize that age and family history can also put you at risk for heart disease. Your risk is higher if:

  • You are a woman over age 55;
  • You are a man over age 45;
  • Your father or brother had heart disease before age 55; and/or
  • Your mother or sister had heart disease before age 65.