Heart disease is a formidable foe. It’s the Number 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer, according to the American Heart Association. Once heart disease develops, poor outcomes are a greater risk, so prevention is key.
It may seem intimidating to fight such an opponent, but it isn’t when you take small steps. Little changes can make a big difference in reducing your risk of heart disease.
Eat more produce, cut trans fat and salt. Focus your diet on fresh vegetables, fruit, whole grains and nuts. Avoid “trans” fats (common fried food and baked goods) and pay attention to food labels. Sodium intake should be 1500mg per day at the most. Less is better.
Get moving. Exercise improves cardiovascular health with weight control, improved cholesterol and blood pressure. It also reduces stress—another risk factor for heart disease. Aim for 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise for three or four days a week. Break workouts into 10-minute sessions, if that’s easier to fit into your day. Working out with a buddy is a great way to keep motivation going.
Don’t smoke! When you quit cigarettes, the risk of heart disease drops dramatically within a year. Join a smoking-cessation support program and ask your physician about using nicotine replacement aids to help you quit. When you’re smoke-free, you feel, look and smell better—and save a lot of money.
Learn to manage your stress. Relieve stress with meditation, music and at least seven hours of sleep. Keep a positive attitude and make time for things you enjoy. Chronic anxiety and depression are associated with increased heart events. Consider professional help to address them.
Make your health a priority. See your doctor to discuss your cardiovascular risks and for cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetic screening. You’re worth the effort!
This post was written by Sonia Henry, MD, cardiologist at The Katz Institute for Women's Health.
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