Did you know that cardiovascular disease is responsible for nearly twice as many deaths in women as compared to all forms of cancer? You could easily be the one in three female adults in the US who have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The good news is there are easy ways to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Whether you are in your 20s and in good health or in your 50s and dealing with disease, here are 10 ways to reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
Heart health tip #1: Determine your risksHeart disease and stroke are largely preventable – but only if you know your risks and how to lower them. Talk to your doctor about your heart-health and what factors in your life can increase your chances of developing CVD. Some risk factors are controllable, such as diet, exercise and other aspects of your lifestyle, while others, like age, gender and heredity, can't be changed. Regardless, being aware of your risks is the best way to put a heart-health action plan into practice.
Heart health tip #2: Maintain a healthy weightAccording to the American Heart Association, Women with excess body fat, particularly around the waist area, are at a higher risk of heart disease, even if they don't have other risk factors. In addition, if you are overweight, you are at a higher risk for developing other health problems, which can contribute to heart disease, including high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, high triglycerides, and diabetes. Work with a licensed healthcare professional, such as a registered dietician, on a diet plan to help you lose weight.
Heart health tip #3: Move your bodyIn addition to a healthy diet, get regular physical activity. Not only does exercise help burn calories to help you maintain a healthy weight, it is also beneficial for your mood, muscles, bones, brain and heart. Aim for 30 minutes of movement every day. Go for a walk, take an exercise class, ride your bike or get outside to garden.
Heart health tip #4: Reduce your stressChronic stress is damaging to your health and can drive you to overeat, get inadequate sleep, drink and smoke in excess, and neglect your self-care. Find ways to lower your daily stress levels – eat a balanced diet, use exercise as a stress reliever, connect with friends and family who provide emotional support, and work to change facets of your life that are creating stress.
Heart health tip #5: Stop smokingSmoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. Smoking increases your risk of illness and death from heart attack, stroke and other diseases. According to the American Heart Association, when you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease and stroke is reduced. Your risk of CHD (congenital heart disease) is substantially reduced within one to two years of cessation. Check your local listings for smoking cessation programs.
Heart health tip #6: Lower your cholesterolMany people have high cholesterol levels and don't even know it. High cholesterol levels can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Get your blood tested to determine your cholesterol levels, in particularly your LDL or "bad" cholesterol levels. If you need to lower your LDL, work closely with your doctor to create a diet plan that is low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol as well as an exercise program that will help you maintain a healthy weight.
Heart health tip #7: Monitor your blood pressureHigh blood pressure (or hypertension) makes your heart work harder than normal, putting your heart and arteries at risk for injury. High blood pressure raises the risk of having a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, eye damage, heart failure and atherosclerosis (fatty buildups in the arteries). Further, your risk of high blood pressure raises during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, which can put you and your baby in danger. Regular exercise, stress management and working with your physician can help decrease your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Heart health tip #8: Get regular check upsWith obesity and diabetes becoming an increasing problem in the United States, particularly in children and adolescents, it is essential to get regular medical check ups to diagnose the disease as well as successfully manage it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared to adults without diabetes, adults with diabetes have from two to four times higher death rates from heart disease. Your risk increases even more if you have high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
Heart health tip #9: Consider alternative birth controlBirth control pills can raise your blood pressure, putting you at a higher risk for heart disease. Your risk is even higher if you take birth control pills and smoke, have high cholesterol, are overweigh or have diabetes. Experts recommend that you not even take oral contraceptives if you have a history of coronary artery disease or blood clotting disorders. There are many effective alternatives birth control pills – talk with your doctor about your risks and changing to a birth control option that doesn't increase our risk of heart disease.
Heart health tip #10: Get regular medical checkupsA key in prevention of heart disease is regular visits to your physician. Your doctor is instrumental in determining your risk factors – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart irregularities and other health conditions that can lead to heart attack or stroke. Be sure to schedule a yearly check up and don't hesitate to make an appointment to address any questions or concerns you have about your heart-health or your health in general.
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