Cardiovascular disease is the United States’ worst killer. Statistics from The Heart Foundation show that heart disease took away the lives of almost 787,000 people in 2011 alone. On a yearly average, nearly 720,000 individuals in the U.S. suffer from heart attacks and correspond to 25% of all deaths.
Aside from being deadly, it is also costly. Both direct and indirect costs of heart disease, including health expenditures and productivity, amount to approximately $320.1 billion.
Heart disease is most notable in women, which is their most dreaded medical condition. It has taken away lives of more women than all types of cancer combined. Case in point, only one in 31 women dies from breast cancer compared to one in three from heart disease.
Since 1984, heart disease was able to kill more women than men. While this should sound alarming, statistics show that only one in five women thinks of heart disease as a serious health threat. Worse, around 90% of women have one or more risk factors leading to heart disease.
Giving heart disease lesser attention than other medical conditions usually stems from the idea that heart disease is commonly a man’s disease. It is no wonder since the symptoms of cardiovascular disease manifest differently in women. The majority (71%) of women feel early warning signs of heart attack with a sudden bout of extreme weakness like that of the flu without chest pain. In fact, close to two-thirds of the deaths from heart attacks in women happen to those who didn’t have a history of chest pain? Because of this, it poses a serious challenge to medical professionals in responding to a heart attack.
Worse, women receive fewer heart disease procedures than men. Likewise, after a heart attack, women are less likely than men to get beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and aspirin—medications are known to increase chances of survival.
Women at risk
Doctors found out that women with health conditions below are more likely to acquire heart disease:
- Smoking – women who smoke are at a higher danger of having a heart attack 19 years earlier than their nonsmoking counterparts.
- Hypertensive women – these women have 3.5 times more chances of developing coronary heart disease, one variant of heart disease, than non-hypertensive women.
- Diabetes – more than 50% of women with diabetes are prone to heart attack.
- Obesity – obese women have a higher risk of premature death from heart disease.
- Excessive stress – stress, marital in particular, makes the prognosis in women with heart disease greater.
- Reproductive system problems – women with irregular menstruation, estrogen deficiencies, and polycystic ovary syndrome are more likely to develop heart disease in the latter years of their lives.
If you are a woman prone to developing heart disease or if you want to avoid heart disease, doctors advise you to obtain positive emotions.
Breeding positive emotions
A study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University was able to establish a link between positive emotions and lesser likelihood of developing heart problems, especially in the elderly. The paper found out that a positive outlook in life motivates people to engage in healthy behaviors such as more physical activity, more adherence to medications, better sleep quality, and less smoking. These activities led to decreased possibility of obtaining heart problems. Also, positive emotions are said to prompt people to adhere better to their health goals and proactively cope with stress and develop resilience.
Meanwhile, another study showed that harboring negative emotions, such as anxiety, worry and depression, can aggravate stress. Stress for extended periods can lead to inflammation that affects the heart and triggers heart disease.
You can develop, in time, the habit of keeping a positive and happy attitude. Through constant practice, you can boost the positive emotions in you to overshadow or replace the negative, self-defeating emotions. A paper published in Psychological Science discovered that found a person can self-generate positive emotions that contribute to better physical health. Having said this, here are some habits that you can do to generate positive feelings:
- Forgiveness – Studies show that forgiving others and yourself as well as letting go and forgetting your grudges can bring numerous benefits to your health. These advantages include decreased blood pressure, improved immune system, and lower level of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Thankfulness – Though a simple task, the habit of thanking others can breed health benefits. A 2003 study established a connection between praising others and a decrease in health complaints. Scientists found out that gratitude triggers neurochemicals and hormones such as serotonin and oxytocin that improve mood and boost health and wellness.
- Optimism – A study of a team of scientists from Harvard University and Boston University revealed that pessimistic people were more likely to acquire heart disease than the most optimistic ones.
- Kindness – According to Dr. David R. Hamilton, among other health benefits, acts of kindness result to healthier hearts. These acts trigger the production of the love hormone oxytocin which releases nitric oxide. Nitric oxide expands the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure.
- Resilience – Resilience is the emotional ability to spring back after undergoing a stressful and emotionally devastating event. Emotionally resilient people have the ability to manage stress – a key contributor in developing heart disease.
- Honesty – A University of Notre Dame research disclosed that telling fewer lies promotes better mental and physical health. Scientists in the research found out that honest people have fewer complaints of being tense and depressive.
- Compassion – A volume of studies shows that being compassionate and volunteering some of your time and skills to the less privileged can prolong your lifespan.
Your emotions deeply affect your heart. To maintain the health of your organ that symbolizes emotions, you should always practice these positive activities that breed happiness and positive feelings.
Ethan Wright is a health enthusiast who believes every great day begins with a good night sleep. He is currently a researcher and writer for Bedding Stock, an online retailer of gel memory foam mattress in the USA. When not wearing his writing hat, you will see him traveling to places with his journal.