Wonder Woman Syndrome and Heart Health

Pamela Ressler

Wonder WomanPerhaps you remember the cartoon image of Wonder Woman or the Lynda Carter TV version of the 1970‘s female superhero. As more women have entered the paid workforce over the last several decades, the image of needing superhero powers to balance work, family and health has become a familiar metaphor.  Unfortunately, tending to the multiple needs of others often puts women at risk of ignoring and neglecting their own health risk factors and symptoms of illness…after all who has the time??!!

During February, a month filled with images of hearts, the American Heart Association and many workplaces have joined forces in supporting the health initiative Go Red for Women to raise awareness and encourage women to learn the facts about the hidden health issue of women’s heart disease.

Did you know:

  • Heart disease is the #1 killer of women over age 20 in the United States
  • 1 in 3 women die from heart disease compared to 1 in 30 women who die from breast cancer
  • Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease annually

But here’s the good news: Over 80% of heart disease risk factors in women are either preventable or treatable.

In this short and humorous video, award winning actress Elizabeth Banks aptly illustrates the Wonder Woman Syndrome -the woman who juggles it all and certainly doesn’t have the time for “just a little heart attack”.

Here are 6 tips adapted from Go Red for Women to help you become a heart healthier superhero:

1. Quit Smoking and avoid second hand smoke. By making this change, you will substantially reduce a preventable risk factor for heart disease.

2. Know your numbers: blood pressure, cholesterol, weight/BMI. Make sure you monitor these numbers and discuss with your health care provider.

3. Reduce processed foods. Try to eliminate one processed food that you currently eat and substitute it with a fruit, vegetable or non-processed alternative.

4. Aim for 10K a day. Get a pedometer or fitness tracker and measure the number of steps you take each day. Try to increase the number of steps until you reach 10,000 steps per day.

5. Partner with others. Team up with coworkers, family members, neighbors for heart healthy challenges.

6. Address your stress each day. Stress has been shown to increase risk of heart disease by affecting the cardiovascular system. Schedule 5 minutes on your calendar to remove yourself from your routine. Relax your body and mind — focus on your breath.

Pamela Katz Ressler, RN, MS-HN-BC, is the founder of Stress Resources and a Senior Wellness Consultant with Comprehensive EAP. You can follow her on Twitter @pamressler or @stressresources.