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Fight Heart Disease with Small Changes

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.

Know your personal risk factorsPregnancy complications and systemic autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis increase the risk for heart disease in women.

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.

For more North Shore-LIJ Health Blog posts, go to http://blog.northshorelij.com/ 

Contents of the health blog are the property of North Shore-LIJ Health System and are provided as a health resource for consumers, health care professionals and members of the media. The medical content on the North Shore-LIJ Health Blog is for informational purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for consultation with your physician regarding diagnosis, treatment or any other form of specific medical advice. These materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "North Shore-LIJ Health System," "North Shore-LIJ," "northshorelij.com," "VivoHealth," their related entities and logos are trademarks of the North Shore-LIJ Health System. Copyright © 2011 North Shore-LIJ Health System. All rights reserved.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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