Despite its reputation as a man’s disease, heart disease is the leading cause of death among women in the United States and is responsible for one in every four female fatalities, according to the CDC. Furthermore, the American Heart Association reports that only one in five American women realize that heart disease is such a prevalent health threat. Understanding how to keep your heart healthy can prevent you from developing heart disease or experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
What is Heart Disease?
Heart disease occurs when plaque accumulates on the walls of your arteries, making it more difficult for blood to pass through. If an artery becomes blocked, a blood clot can form and cause a heart attack or stroke. Utilize the following tips to protect your heart.
1. Break a Sweat on a Regular Basis
Exercise not only helps you maintain a healthy weight and avoid obesity, but it also lowers your cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General suggests adults participate in moderate exercise for two hours and 30 minutes per week. Hike, run, bike, dance or swim to get your blood pumping and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
2. Avoid Smoking
Smoking kills because it harms almost every organ in the body, including your heart and blood vessels. While tobacco is a major risk when it comes to heart disease, it becomes even more lethal when paired with obesity, high blood pressure or unhealthy cholesterol levels. The National Heart, Blood and Lung Institute reports, however, that smoking is the main preventable cause of death and illness in the United States, so put out that cigarette for a stronger and healthier heart.
3. Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
Supplying your body with the right nutrients makes a huge difference in your cardiovascular health. Consume low-calorie foods with vitamins, minerals and fiber to best manage your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, poultry, fish and nuts is a step in the right direction when it comes to your heart health.
4. Research Your Family History
Gain important insight into your health and learn about the people who you are closest with biologically. If researching your family’s history of heart disease seems daunting, start by asking your immediate family members about their heart history and their ages when problems arose. Make sure to share this information with your doctor.
5. Prevent or Treat Medical Conditions
Properly treating existing medical conditions can help you prevent heart disease. The CDC suggests testing your cholesterol levels every five years, monitoring your blood pressure, staying on top of your blood sugar if you have diabetes and staying adherent with your medications for your best overall health.
6. Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
Moderation is key when it comes to alcohol consumption. Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of fats in your blood, lead to high blood pressure or cause heart failure. One to two drinks per day for men is considered healthy, while just one drink per day is recommended for women. One drink is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine or an ounce of hard liquor.
7. Know Your Blood Pressure
Knowledge is power when it comes to your blood pressure. Check your blood pressure regularly so you are familiar with your typical reading. Familiarizing yourself with your blood pressure also helps you recognize if your blood pressure is inconsistent, which is a symptom of heart disease.
8. Familiarize Yourself with the Signs
Symptoms of heart disease can be hardly noticeable until it’s too late. The ability to recognize the symptoms of a heart attack can help you act immediately and possibly save your own life. Signs and symptoms of a heart attack include:
9. Lower Your Stress Level
Stress is not only paralyzing for your mental health, but also for your physical wellness. An increased heart rate and blood pressure can cause severe damage to artery walls. Practicing deep breathing techniques, calling a friend, exercising, or writing down your stress on paper are all ways to decrease your stress level and increase your heart health.
10. Make Healthy Habits a Lifestyle
Protecting your heart is a life-long job, but one that is well worth doing. Incorporating the previous ten suggestions into your lifestyle will make guarding your heart feel less like an inconvenience and more like a routine.
Women’s health is a high priority at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s. We work to keep your heart, mind and soul healthy, as well as provide services to accommodate your changing health needs as you age. Experience our unique integrative approach at St. Luke’s to help with prevention, treatment and recovery when it comes to matters of your heart.