Know your Symptoms and Numbers: Your Heart Depends on It

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Joan Lunden

Newsletter / / February 18, 2017


I recently read an article about Carrie Fisher's heart attack and was floored to learn that heart disease is the number one killer of men and women in the U.S., taking more lives than all forms of cancer combined. I began thinking about my upcoming speech at the American Heart Association in Austin, TX on Friday February 24th and wanted to share with you some important facts about heart disease and how to protect yourself from this potentially deadly disease. 

The most feared diseases among Americans are cancer and Alzheimer’s, not heart disease despite the startling numbers.  In a recent survey, 47% of women did not know heart disease is the leading cause of death among women. In fact, cardiovascular disease kills nearly 1 in 3 women each year and about one woman every 80 seconds. 

The good news is that about 80% of cardiovascular disease may be preventable. Know these symptoms, risk factors, and numbers to protect your health. 

Common symptoms of heart attacks:

  • Chest pain, pressure or squeezing:  About two-thirds of men and one-third of women will experience “the classic Hollywood heart attack” with pain or discomfort in the chest.
  • Jaw or arm ache/pain: More common for women
  • Upset stomach or heartburn:  Women are more likely to ascribe their symptoms to an upset stomach or gastroesophageal reflux.  Both women and men may experience nausea and vomiting with a heart attack.
  • Shortness of breath:  This symptom is more common in women.
  • Lightheadedness: You may be dizzy or feel as if you are going to pass out.
  • Sweating:  You may break out in a cold sweat.

Know all the symptoms for a heart attack and if you have them, call 911 — you don’t drive yourself. And keep in mind that many people have symptoms for a few months... slowly building and leading up to a heart attack. 

Top risks factors for heart disease:  

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Being obese or overweight
  • Diabetes, especially if not well-controlled
  • Increasing age
  • Family history of heart disease

Many heart attacks can be prevented by addressing lifestyle factors and being aware of your family history. 

Know your Numbers:

Knowing these 5 numbers can help women and their healthcare provider determine their risk for developing cardiovascular disease. 

  1. Total Cholesterol
  2. HDL (good) Cholesterol
  3. Blood Pressure
  4. Blood Sugar
  5. Body Mass Index 

So listen up, especially all of you women reading! If you feel something, say something. Take action today.  Do not be nonchalant when it comes to your health. And don't just assume it could never happen to you. Information empowers us to stay vigilant with our health and be our own best health advocate. Don't wait. Your heart depends on it. 


American Heart Association 
Next Avenue


Categories: Heart Health, Newsletter
About The Author
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Joan Lunden truly exemplifies today’s modern working woman. An award-winning journalist, bestselling author, motivational speaker, successful entrepreneur, one of America’s most recognized and trusted television personalities, this mom of seven continues to do it all. As host of Good Morning America for nearly two decades, Lunden brought insight to top issues for millions of Americans each day. The longest running host ever on early morning television, Lunden reported from 26 countries, covered 4 presidents and 5 Olympics and kept Americans up to date on how to care for their homes, their families and themselves.

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