Did you know that women are just as much at risk for developing heart disease as men? In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, it’s the leading cause of death among women in general, and the third leading cause of death in women aged 25 to 44. So our heart health is just as important as theirs, but few of us know how to improve heart health. I can help! I’ve been chatting with a marvelous cardiologist at St. John’s Providence about women’s heart health. Here are 7 sure ways to improve your heart health. Let’s get started!
1. Know Your Risk
There are lots of risk factors we can’t control (like age and heredity) and a long list of risk factors we can control (see below). Knowing your risk for heart disease, and knowing what’s at risk, is the first step to improving your heart health.
Your heart is basically a muscle, and muscles need exercise to stay healthy. If you want to improve your heart health, one of the best, most important ways is to get heart-thumping, sweat-inducing cardio exercise for about two and a half hours each week, or about 45 minutes, 4 times a week. Cardio can be anything that gets your heart racing that entire time, from running and jogging to swimming and dancing. Get up and move!
3. Color Your Plate
The more colorful your meals are, the healthier they are. That may sound weird, until you think about it. Fruits and veggies are very colorful, with red tomatoes, leafy greens, and gorgeous berries. Aim for five servings of fresh, colorful fruits and veggies every day, and cut back on the boring browns and beiges, like fried chicken and hamburgers. The exception? Whole grains are also beige, but they’re good for you!
4. Quit Smoking
Add a dramatically increased risk of heart disease to the long, long list of reasons you need to quit smoking, now. According to the CDC, women can significantly decrease their risk of heart disease from smoking within one to two years of quitting, no matter how old they are… improve your heart health by stopping now!
5. Get Checked
There are lots of ways you can check your heart health, from simply knowing your own resting heart rate to having a heart study done if you or your doctor suspect problems. Get a heart health check once a year, sooner if you feel something’s not quite right.
6. Know the Symptoms
What does that mean, “not quite right”? How do we know when something’s wrong? Women often experience very different heart disease symptoms than men, so it’s important to know them. Most women experience simply a shortness of breath or nausea rather than severe chest pains, or a tightness in their chest and mild fatigue… this is also why so often a heart attack can be misdiagnosed. Insist on critical care if you feel something’s wrong. Often times a delay in treatment can mean a slow recovery, or worse, death when it could have been avoided.
7. Live Happy!
Stress can wreak havoc on your heart, so if you want to improve your heart health, find a constructive, effective way to deal with the stressors in your life. Take a yoga class, meditate, write in a journal, hire a therapist, consider a job change — do whatever it takes to cope with stress, so it doesn’t affect your heart health!
Now that you know how to improve your heart health, will you do it? Please do… I love our readers and I want you to be around for a long, long time! Which of these tips will you do first? Or are you already doing them all? Do you have another heart health tip to share? Please do!
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