Health Watch: Fairbanks American Heart Association spread awareness with National Wear Red Day

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Published: Feb. 2, 2022 at 4:48 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Friday is National Wear Red Day, a day for spreading awareness for the risks and factors that contribute to heart disease for women.

According to Dr. Linda Ireland, Cardiologist with the Alaska Heart Institute, many are not aware of just how prevalent heart disease is in women.

“What a lot of us don’t understand is that one in three women will actually die of heart disease,” Dr. Ireland explained. “Every 90 seconds, a woman has a heart attack in this country, And nine out of ten women walking around have cardiovascular risk factors that they’re not aware of. So Go Red For Women this Friday is a launching pad to be able to raise awareness for that. We’re trying to ask everybody to wear red and go on social media and [share the hashtags] #GoRedDay and #GoRedAlaska. I think it’s mostly to spread awareness for everybody. Even if it’s just from one colleague to another or a family member, awareness is going to be the key to be able to decrease the epidemic within women and heart disease.”

There are several factors that one can keep tabs on which can contribute to a risk of heart disease according to Dr. Ireland.

“It’s really know[ing] your numbers,” Dr. Ireland elaborated, “and that’s what we’re trying to drive home is to know your numbers - knowing what your blood pressure is, what your cholesterol is, know your diabetic numbers, blood glucose is less than 100, and then more importantly than that is understanding what your family history is. That’s important - asking your relatives and first degree relatives, mother, father, and brothers and sisters what their heart disease is that increases their risk. Of course not smoking, and [getting exercise] is so important. I think all of those combined for women, it’s just kind of understanding that they have risks and going forward trying to be proactive in their health.”

There are potential causes for heart disease that put women at risk according to Dr. Ireland. “There’s menopause, so when women approach menopause, body changes, estrogen levels drop, and with that some people can gain more weight, then their lymphatic panel or cholesterol panels change, and their blood sugars can increase. So as women go into menopause it’s even more important to exercise, but also more important to look at what is my blood pressure, what is my blood sugar doing - because a lot of the time with those hormonal changes, things change that they didn’t have prior to that.

Dr. Ireland continued, “Then secondarily, in what is also not very well known out there, is pregnancy. During pregnancy, a lot of women when they’re younger can get preeclampsia during pregnancy, which is high blood pressure and protein in the urine, but they can also get gestational diabetes - so they can have diabetic issues during pregnancy that oftentimes go away when the pregnancy is over. But what people don’t understand or are often unaware of is that after pregnancy, almost half of people can develop Type 2 diabetes. So I think what they have to understand is to kind of continue to get screened even after because that’s in a very young population - and then as they get older, the blood pressure and diabetes can also play a role in heart disease.”

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