Can I share a secret with you? Well it’s not really a secret, but I am a huge Star Wars fan. Like I’ve read the Star Wars books (yes they have those), collected the action figures (they have those too) and have seen all the movies more times than I would like to admit. So when I heard that Carrie Fisher had died, I was sad. As a young kid (and even now truthfully), Princess Leia was one of my favorite characters. She was strong, took care of business, fought with the guys and was a princess! What more could you want?!
Off screen Carrie’s battle with mental illness brought attention and awareness to this disease. She was able to fight her own mental illness and bring hope and help to a lot of fans through her honesty about her struggle. Princess Leia was an icon for millions, and I think we can safely say we were all sad to hear of her passing. What was even more shocking was what happened on a plane two days ago before she died. She had a heart attack caused by heart disease. That’s pretty scary.
What was even scarier for me was that Carrie Fisher was my mom’s age. That’s not old! (Although the older I get, the age that I think is “old” becomes further and further away, ha!) One of my favorite childhood icons is now gone from a heart attack brought on from heart disease. But what does heart disease actually mean? And how can we protect ourselves and our moms and grandmothers?
Heart disease can take on many forms. The most common form is something called atherosclerosis. This is where there is a buildup of plaque in the arteries. That buildup can cause blood to eventually clot. That clot can block off blood flow which can in turn cause a heart attack or stroke. Other forms for heart disease can cause heart values problems, heart arrhythmia or even heart failure.
Ya’ll, here is another scary statistic. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number one killer of women. Think about that. That’s a crazy! More than cancer! Heart disease is the cause of death of one woman every minute.
What’s more is that the symptoms for women are not always the same as for men. Many times when we think heart attack, we think: left sided chest pain shooting pains down the left arm, trouble breathing and sweating. Those are not normally the same symptoms for women. Women (and sometimes men) can experience “silent heart attacks”.
These can have symptoms like a strained muscle in your chest or upper back, jaw discomfort, or pain in upper back or arms. They might even have flu-like symptoms or symptoms like indigestion or even just unexplained excessive fatigue or anxiety. Most people ignore these symptoms and think they are caused by something else.
I don’t know about ya’ll, but I want my mom to be around for as long as she can (besides for the free babysitting she provides me, love you Mom!). So what are some ways that you can prevent heart disease, and how can you encourage your friends and family to do the same?
First and foremost, don’t smoke.
Seriously if you are, please get help to stop because it causes a variety of health problems (I know it’s very hard to quit smoking!).
Other good ideas are to manage your blood sugar, make sure your blood pressure is under control, lower your cholesterol, stay active, lose weight and eat healthy.
Also, know your family history.
If heart disease runs in your family, make sure you are even more active in monitoring and working on preventing it. Heart disease can also affect a variety of ages, so while it’s more common the older we get, young women can have problems from it too!
Carrie Fisher, you will be missed but will remain a part of our lives through Star Wars for a very long time. Hopefully we can all become more aware about heart disease through your passing and how to prevent it in the lives our family and friends. Thank you Princess Leia – May the force be with you.
For more information about heart disease and your risk please visit https://www.goredforwomen.org/