Although heart disease is the leading cause of death of American women, it doesn’t have to be your destiny. Here are several ways you can take charge of your heart health and lower your risk for heart disease, starting right now.
• Quit smoking (or don’t start). Studies show that women who smoke are far more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than those who don’t. Quitting now may just be the very best thing you can do for your overall health.
• Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts a strain on your heart and leads to all kinds of health problems. If you need to lose weight, consider a program like Weight Watchers (www.weightwatchers.com), or ask your doctor for recommendations.
• Know your nutrition, and eat a well-balanced diet. A heart-healthy diet is low in salt and animal fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. Additional suggestions can be found on www.nutrition.gov.
• Consider a nutritional supplement to boost your intake of antioxidants and other essential nutrients. In spite of your best efforts, a fast-paced lifestyle can make it difficult to get all the nutrition you need from food. Pomology’s Heart Health (www.pomology.com) is one formula specifically designed to support the heart.
• Get moving, stay active. Physical activity keeps your heart strong and improves circulation. If you’re not accustomed to exercising, check with your doctor first, and then start slowly. Just a brisk 30-minute walk several times a week (or preferably each day) will get your heart pumping.
• Avoid excessive alcohol consumption. It’s true that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol lowers the risk of heart disease—but the keyword here is moderate. For women, that means an average of one drink per day. Excessive drinking or binge drinking can lead to obesity, high triglyceride levels, elevated blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.
• Reduce your stress levels. Hostility, depression, work-related stress, and marital stress can increase a woman’s risk of heart disease and heart attack. If problems like these are affecting the quality of your life, seek professional help to manage them.
• Talk to your doctor about alternatives to hormone therapy for managing menopausal symptoms. Although hormone therapy was once thought to lower the risk of heart attack and stroke in women with heart disease, research now shows that estrogen alone will not prevent heart attacks, and estrogen plus progestin increases the risk for heart attacks, blood clots, and stroke.
• Understand your numbers. Your blood pressure, cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides, and blood glucose are important measurements in terms of your heart health. Ask your doctor to explain what all those numbers mean, and what your target numbers are. Work with your doctor to improve any numbers that are not normal.
• Be informed. Your risk for heart disease and stroke changes as you age, and new treatments are being developed all the time. Stay in tune with news regarding heart health, and visit your doctor regularly to review your personal health, ask questions, and discuss your concerns.