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4 Heart health tips for women

Making a few lifestyle changes can dramatically improve the health of your heart. Here are four ways you can do your heart some good.

Woman running at the gym

Heart disease is not typically what many of us think of in relation to women’s health, but cardiovascular disease is actually the #1 killer of women in Canada. Though a distressing if not eye-opening statistic, we have it within our control to reduce our risk by as much as 80 per cent. It all has to do with adjusting your lifestyle. Here are five ways to be good to your heart.

Quit smoking (or don’t take it up, even occasionally)

Your cigarette habit significantly increases your risk of heart disease. Smoking can cause your arteries to narrow (which forces your heart to work harder, increasing your blood pressure and heart rate). And don’t fool yourself by thinking that smoking a cigarette or two only when you’re out with some friends is fine; even the occasional smoke is unhealthy. The carbon monoxide in cigarettes causes there to be less oxygen in your blood, which again forces your heart to work harder than if you didn’t smoke at all.

Get active

Fitting in some exercise — ideally at least 30 minutes daily — will benefit your heart greatly. It’ll help you maintain a healthy weight (see below) and contribute to keeping your stress level manageable. And keep in mind that even if you can’t fit in a one-hour spin or yoga class daily (what with the kids, your workload, errands and other things on your plate), day-to-day activities all count toward your activity level. This includes taking the stairs during your commute, walking your dog twice or more daily, walking to pick up your kids at daycare and tidying up your yard.

Keep a healthy weight

When you’re overweight, your risk for heart disease (and diabetes) increases. Look to the number on the scale, but also calculate your body-mass index (which factors in your height and weight for a more well-rounded view of health) and measure the circumference of your waist . A new study has found that your waist-to-height ratio is a useful tool in determining health risks. Ideally your waist circumference should be less than half your height.

Eat foods good for your heart

As a general rule, limit fat, cholesterol and salt in your diet. The Mediterranean diet, full of vegetables and essential fatty acids, is often touted as a highly heart-healthy regimen. In terms of what to avoid, beware trans fats and saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.

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