As the new year begins, I’d like to draw attention to a different feminist issue than you may be used to hearing about (at least in this context). That is taking care of your heart.
Heart disease kills more women every year than anything else. It kills more women than the next 7 leading causes of death combined, including all forms of cancer and car accidents. Over 500,000 women die each year from this. It affects far more women than men. This is partially because healthcare is extremely biased towards men, and I’ll get to that later. Heart disease includes any cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes.
So what can you do?
1. Don’t smoke. If you already smoke, stop.
This is the probably the single most important thing you can do to prevent heart disease. Smoking increases your chances of heart attack and stroke by such immense amounts that it almost makes lung cancer seem unlikely (not really, smoking is terrible for your lungs too).
2. Get 30 minutes of cardio at least 3 times a week.
This means go jogging, walk briskly, go biking, anything that makes your heart beat faster. This builds stronger muscles, including that most important one: your heart.
3. Brush and floss, and get yourself to the dentist.
Gingivitis increases your odds of a heart attack or stroke. Gingivitis is a minor infection that rages on for years. Infections strain your heart (and just your body) so after years of constantly fighting infection, it is weaker. Floss every day, brush twice a day, go to the dentist every 6 months.
4. Take low dose aspirin after age 45, or after menopause.
I challenge you to find a cardiologist who doesn’t do this. The two causes of heart attack and stroke are clotting and inflammation (leading to a clogged artery). Aspirin is an anti-coagulant and an anti-inflammatory. Talk to your doctor before adding in any drug regimen.
5. Check your blood pressure.
High blood pressure can kill, so get that checked. If you have high blood pressure, do something about it. There are great medications for lowering blood pressure. Also lowering stress, exercising, and reducing your salt intake can help with high blood pressure.
6. Eat healthier.
Lower your intake of saturated fats, lower salt, eat less meat, etc… Eat food high in fiber, lots of green veggies, and just generally up your intake of “rabbit food” and healthy goodness. Eat nuts instead of chips, fish instead of steak. Use olive oil instead of butter, etc…
7. Get sleep, lower stress, get happy!
The theme of people getting so wound up they give themselves a stroke or a heart attack has some truth. Try to just keep your general stress level low. Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Try meditating, hot baths, whatever to calm your nerves. Relax a bit.
Why is heart disease a feminist issue? Isn’t it just a people issue?
Heart disease kills more women than men each year by a large amount. This is because of many factors, some that stem from sexism. One, most studies used only men because they were thought to be less complicated than women. So rather than acknowledging our physiology was different, that our hormones might actually have a big impact on how we experience heart problems, we were discarded as too complicated to study. We now know that estrogen has big impacts for our hearts and that women do in fact experience a heart attack in a very different way. But many women get turned away from hospitals and ignored by doctors because their symptoms don’t match typical male symptoms, which may or may not be the same. It’s only really in the past decade that these differences are even being acknowledged. Knowing these differences can be a life or death situation.
Two, women are covered by health insurance far less than men. That means more women than men will ignore dangerous symptoms to avoid an expensive doctor’s visit. It also means more women than men can’t afford regular check-ups that can check on blood pressure and other routine heart checks. They also won’t be able to afford heart-saving prescription drugs, and that would definitely make paying for a surgery impossible. Don’t even get me started on how the healthcare system just in general screws women over. It all goes back to the whole, we’re more “complicated” from all that babymaking equipment and hormones, so rather than give us better/more healthcare, we get ignored and passed over for the “default” human state of male AKA we’re punished for being women.