Heart attacks

  • What is a heart attack? A heart attack occurs when the blood supply to part of the heart is severely reduced or stopped. The reduction or stoppage happens when one or more of the coronary arteries supplying blood to the heart muscle is blocked by plaque (deposits of fat-like substances). The plaque can eventually burst, tear or rupture, creating a "snag" where a blood clot forms and blocks the artery. This leads to a heart attack.If the blood supply is cut off for more than a few minutes, muscle cells suffer permanent injury and die. This can kill or disable someone, depending on how much heart muscle is damaged.

  • Statistics: 1.2 million people suffer a heart attack each year in the United States.  Every minute someone dies from a heart attack.60 billion dollars are spent on heart attack treatment and prevention each year.

  • Warning signs:
  • Chest discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.   
  • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body: Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.   
  • Shortness of breath with or without chest discomfort.  
  • Other signs may include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness       

As with men, women's most common heart attack symptom is chest pain or discomfort. But women are more likely than men to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting, and back or jaw pain. For more information, click here.

  • 6 things that increase your chance of having a heart attack:
  • If a close relative has heart disease
  • Smoking (especially in women)
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Obesity and overweight (If you have too much fat, especially if a lot of it is located in your waist area)
  • Diabetes (It increases your risk of having heart disease by two to four times)
  • 6 foods that help lower cholesterol and avoid heart attacks:
  • Oatmeal (reduces cholesterol)
  • Berries (oxidize bad cholesterol)
  • Beans (contain lots of fiber and little fat)
  • Lentils
  • Fish and poultry without the skin
  • Eggs without the yolk

For more information on lowering your cholesterol, click here.

Heart disease in women

  • What is heart disease? Coronary heart disease is the main form of heart disease.  It is a disorder of the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to heart attack. One reason some women aren't too concerned about heart disease is that they think it can be "cured" with surgery.  This is a myth.  Heart disease is a lifelong condition—once you get it, you'll always have it.  True, procedures such as bypass surgery and angioplasty can help blood and oxygen flow to the heart more easily.  But the arteries remain damaged, which means you are more likely to have a heart attack.  What's more, the condition of your blood vessels will steadily worsen unless you make changes in your daily habits.  Many women die of complications from heart disease, or become permanently disabled. For more information on heart disease, click here.

  • Statistics: Although heart disease is sometimes thought of as a "man's disease," it is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States and women account for 51% of the total heart disease deaths.Heart disease is often perceived as an "older woman's disease," and it is the leading cause of death among women aged 65 years and older. However, heart disease is the 3rd leading cause of death among women aged 25–44 years and the 2nd leading cause of death among women aged 45–64 years.In 2002, age-adjusted death rates for heart disease were higher among black women (169.7 per 100,000) than among white women (131.2 per 100,000). For more statistics, click here.
  • Risk Factors:
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a family history of early heart disease
  • Age (55 or older for women)

For more information on risk factors, click here.


  • Statistics: Over 30,000 people take their own lives every year in America. Eighty-three people kill themselves every day. One person commits suicide every 17 minutes. Suicide is 8th leading cause of death in USA. Men are 4 times as likely than women to die from suicide. White suicide rates are twice non-white rates. Ninety percent of completed suicides have one or more mental disorders. The vast majority of individuals who are suicidal display clues and warning signs. For more information on suicide in the United States, click here.
  • Warning signs:
  • Talking about dying or harming yourself
  • Recent loss (death, divorce, money, status etc)
  • Change in personality  (sad, withdrawn, anxious)
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia or over sleeping
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Low self esteem
  • No hope for the future

For more warning signs, click here.

  • If you have suicidal thoughts: Check yourself into the emergency room. Tell someone who can help you find help immediately. Stay away from things that might hurt you. Most people can be treated with a combination of antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. For more on prevention, click here.
  • Help centers/numbers:
  • 1-800-273-talk; National suicide prevention lifeline
  • 1-800-suicide; National suicide helpline
  • Teenagers, call Covenant House; 1-800-999-9999


  • What is schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a chronic, severe, and disabling brain disease.
  • Symptoms include:
  • Hearing internal voices not heard by others
  • Believing that other people are reading their minds, controlling their thoughts, or plotting to harm them.
  • These symptoms may leave them fearful and withdrawn. Their speech and behavior can be so disorganized that they may be incomprehensible or frightening to others.

For more on schizophrenia, click here.

  • Signs:
  • Excessive fatigue and sleepiness or an inability to sleep
  • Social withdrawal, isolation and reclusiveness
  • Deterioration of social relationships
  • Inability to concentrate or cope with minor problems
  • Apparent indifference, even in highly important situations
  • Dropping out of activities (skipping classes)
  • Decline in academic and athletic performance
  • Deterioration of personal hygiene; eccentric dress
  • Frequent moves or trips or long walks leading nowhere
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Undue preoccupation with spiritual or religious matters
  • Bizarre behavior
  • Inappropriate laughter 
  • Excessive writing without apparent meaning
  • Inability to express emotion

For more warning signs, click here.

  • Stats: Approximately 1 percent of the population develops schizophrenia during their lifetime. More than 2 million Americans suffer from the illness in a given year. Approximately 10 percent of people with schizophrenia commit suicide. 51 million people worldwide suffer from schizophrenia. Schizophrenia runs in families: A child whose parent has schizophrenia has about a 10 percent chance. The risk of schizophrenia in the general population is about 1 percent. People with the condition have a 50 times higher risk of attempting suicide than the general population.

For more information, click here.

  • Treatment: A number of new antipsychotic drugs (the so-called “atypical antipsychotics”) have been introduced since 1990. The first of these, clozapine has been shown to be more effective than other anti-psychotics, although the possibility of severe side effects in particular, a condition called agranulocytosis (loss of the white blood cells that fight infection) requires that patients be monitored with blood tests every one or two weeks. Even newer antipsychotic drugs, such as risperidone and olanzapine, are safer than the older drugs or clozapine, and they also may be better tolerated.

Post Partum Depression

  • What is it? After pregnancy, hormonal changes in a woman's body may trigger symptoms of depression. This is referred to as post partum depression.

  • What causes it? During pregnancy, the amount of two female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, in a woman's body increases greatly. In the first 24 hours after childbirth, the amount of these hormones rapidly drops back down to their normal non-pregnant levels. The fast change in hormone levels may lead to depression. Occasionally, levels of thyroid hormones may also drop after giving birth. Low thyroid levels can cause symptoms of depression including depressed mood, decreased interest in things, irritability, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, and weight gain.

    A simple blood test can tell if this condition is causing a woman's depression. If so, thyroid medicine can be prescribed by a doctor.Feeling tired after delivery, broken sleep patterns, and not enough rest often keeps a new mother from regaining her full strength for weeks. Feeling overwhelmed with a new, or another, baby to take care of and doubting your ability to be a good mother.

    Feeling stress from changes in work and home routines. Sometimes, women think they have to be "super mom" or perfect, which is not realistic and can add stress. Having feelings of loss — loss of identity of who you are, or were, before having the baby, loss of control, loss of your pre-pregnancy figure, and feeling less attractive. Having less free time and less control over time. Having to stay home indoors for longer periods of time and having less time to spend with the your partner and loved ones.

  • Symptoms:
  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, and overwhelmed
  • Crying a lot
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Trouble focusing, remembering, or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Having headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations (the heart beating fast and feeling like it is skipping beats), or hyperventilation (fast and shallow breathing)
  • Being afraid of hurting the baby or oneself and not having any interest in the baby.
  • Cures:
  • Talk to a doctor about anti-depression medication (make sure the medication is safe for the baby if you are breastfeeding)
  • Talk therapy:This involves talking to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker to learn to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act.
  • Get as much rest as you can, nap when the baby naps. Ask for help with chores and feedings.
  • Talk about how you are feeling with friends, family, your partner.
  • Do not spend a lot of time alone.
  • Leave the house and go for a walk or run errands.
  • Talk with other mothers so you can learn from their experiences.
  • Join a support group for women with depression.
  • Do not make any major life changes during or just after pregnancy.

A mother’s depression can affect her baby’s development, so getting treatment is important for both mother and baby.

Postpartum depression can affect a mother’s ability to parent. She may lack energy, have trouble concentrating, be irritable, and not be able to meet her child’s needs for love and affection. As a result, she may feel guilty and lose confidence in herself as a mother, which can worsen the depression.

Researchers believe that postpartum depression can affect the infant by causing delays in language development, problems with emotional bonding to others, behavioral problems, lower activity levels, sleep problems, and distress.

Hotline: National Women's Health Information Center (NWHIC) at 1-800-994-9662

For more some frequently asked questions, click here.


  • What is alcoholism? Alcoholism is a chronic disease that makes your body dependent on alcohol. People may be obsessed with alcohol and unable to control how much they drink, even though their drinking is causing serious problems with relationships, health, work and finances. Alcoholism is treatable, and can be helped by taking medication, receiving counseling and joining support groups. 
  • Warning signs: 
  • Drinking alone or in secret
  • Not remembering conversations or commitments, "blacking out"
  • Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring pleasure
  • Feeling a need or compulsion to drink
  • Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in the car
  • Building a tolerance to alcohol so that you need an increasing number of drinks to feel alcohol's effects
  • Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms — such as nausea, sweating and shaking — if you don't drink
  • Risk factors:
  • People who begin drinking by age 16 or earlier are at a higher risk of alcohol dependence or abuse.
  • Men are more likely to become dependent on or abuse alcohol than women.
  • The risk of alcoholism is higher for people who had a parent or parents who abused alcohol.
  • Being severely depressed or having anxiety places you at a greater risk of abusing alcohol

For more information from the Mayo Clinic, click here.

© 2013


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