#TryItTuesday: Heart Health Tips for Women
Although I've worked in the medical field for more than 20 years, it wasn’t until last year after my mother had a stroke and my grandmother had a massive heart attack (within one month of each other) that I even started to think about my "heart" health.
Cardiovascular disease is the number 1 killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year. That’s approximately one woman every minute. The good news is that for most of us, OUR lifestyle choices can decrease our risk of heart disease and heart attacks.
Know Your Numbers
Knowing your numbers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI is important to assist in identifying modifiable risk factors.
Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is often called a “silent killer” because many people do not notice symptoms. Lowering blood pressure by changes in lifestyle or by medication can reduce your risk for heart disease and heart attack. Your provider will check your blood pressure when you’re in for your annual checkup.
High Cholesterol: Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance made by the liver or found in certain foods. If we take in more cholesterol than the body can use, the extra cholesterol can build up in the walls of the arteries, including those of the heart. This leads to narrowing of the arteries and can decrease the blood flow to the heart, brain, kidneys, and other parts of the body.
Check with your health care provider on recommended guidelines for cholesterol screening. Eat a heart healthy diet and increase your physical activity to help lower cholesterol.
Body Mass Index (BMI): If your BMI is in the obesity range, you are at increased risk for heart disease. Getting your BMI into a healthy range drops your risk of by 32 percent. If your BMI is above average, consider changing your eating habits, be more active and look into healthy weight loss options.
Clean Up Your Diet
Diets high in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol have been linked to heart disease and related conditions, such as atherosclerosis. Also, too much salt (sodium) in the diet can raise blood pressure levels.
- Eat more whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies).
- Cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.
- Limit saturated and trans fats.
Regular physical activity can lower your risk for heart disease. Here are some ways you can do just that — stay more active:
- Exercise at least five times per week for 30 minutes. Getting your heart rate up through physical activity will limit your risk of cardiovascular disease by 28 percent.
- If you have a busy routine, take the stairs and park farther away. Take a break from work and do brisk walking for half an hour after lunch.
- If you have a wearable monitor make sure you get at least 10,000 steps a day.
- Break up long periods of sitting, and stand or walk while doing things like talking on the phone or watching TV.
Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure levels and the risk for heart disease. It also increases levels of triglycerides, a form of cholesterol, which can harden your arteries. Women should have no more than one drink a day, and men should have no more than two.
Quit Smoking, Get Good sleep
Smokers who quit smoking cut their risk of cardiovascular disease by 71 percent, studies show. In another health study, it was proven that young and middle-aged adults who slept seven hours a night had less calcium in their arteries, which is often an early sign of heart disease. Those people in the same age range who slept five hours or less or those who slept nine hours or more had more of this sign of possible heart disease.
Have Some Fun!
Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health, and researchers are currently studying whether managing stress is effective for heart disease.
Ways to have fun range greatly, but you can try these tips:
- Do something fun every day.
- Spend time with those you love.
- Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation or other activities of this nature.
When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, be your own advocate. Visit your health care provider regularly and ask questions. Know your health history and keep a journal or diary of your health, so you don’t forget anything when it’s time to see your doctor.