Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the United States. And while studies continue to examine the relationship between bleeding disorders and cardiovascular disease, current research findings are clear: Attention to cardiovascular wellness should be a top priority for people with bleeding disorders—especially because a bleeding disorder may make treating cardiac problems more challenging.
This American Heart Month, and beyond, resolve to protect your heart by learning more about heart disease risks and by adopting heart-healthy habits.
1. Get screened
Have your blood pressure, cholesterol (total, HDL, LDL and triglycerides) and blood sugar levels checked. These numbers are key indicators of heart health. If yours aren’t in the healthy range, lifestyle changes or medication may be required to get them there.
2. Understand how heart disease affects men and women differently
Heart disease risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure and obesity are common in both women and men. However, women also have other risk factors. Menopause, endometriosis, and gestational diabetes or gestational high blood pressure during pregnancy all increase risk.
Women’s heart attack symptoms may also differ from the classic chest pain and pressure many men experience. Women may have subtler symptoms, including:
• An abnormal level of fatigue
• Neck, jaw, shoulder or back pain
• Abdominal discomfort or indigestion
• Lightheadedness or dizziness
4. Control what you can
While we can’t control all heart disease risk factors—e.g., sex, age, family history—many are in our control. If you smoke, quit. Aim for a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes of activity daily (it doesn’t have to be intense exercise—walking, dancing, gardening, swimming or housekeeping are all good choices). Eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, fish and lean meats, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Prioritize sleep, making sure to get at least seven hours of shut-eye each night. Find ways to keep stress in check—try meditation, breathing exercises or listening to music.
5. Consult your hematologist or hemophilia treatment center (HTC) team
Because treating anyone with a bleeding disorder can be complex, collaboration between your primary care provider or cardiologist and your hematologist or hemophilia treatment center team is a must. Some common medications used in treating heart conditions, such as aspirin (which is an antiplatelet agent) or a blood thinner to prevent strokes, could make bleeding problems worse in people with bleeding disorders. When your healthcare providers communicate and work together, it helps reduce complications, enhances your treatment and leads to better outcomes.