Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women. Yet most people picture middle-aged men when they hear about heart disease. While some risk factors for heart disease cannot be changed, simple lifestyle changes will allow a woman to keep her heart healthy. A healthy heart is only one benefit women will experience by making healthy lifestyle choices. A lower risk of other health conditions and lower numbers on the scale may also result from these changes.
Preventative Health Screenings
Health screenings allow your doctor to catch potential health problems before they develop into something serious. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels are important factors in heart health. Damage to the heart and blood vessels may occur due to high blood pressure or high cholesterol, so it is important to track these levels. Elevated levels should be addressed immediately to prevent damage to the heart.
Assess Your Risk Factors
The risk factors for heart disease are based on both genetics and lifestyle choices. Assessing your personal risk factors will give you an idea of what you can do to decrease your chances of developing heart disease. Risks that cannot be changed include age, gender and a history of heart disease in your family. Risk factors that can be changed include activity level, diet, smoking, high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.
In the age of fast food and convenience meals, healthy home-cooked meals often fall by the wayside. Simple changes in one’s diet can improve health in many ways, including the health of the heart. A heart-friendly diet is one low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains should play a central role in the diet. Saturated and trans fats should be avoided. Adding more fruits and vegetables to one’s diet is an easy way to start. Choose whole wheat versions of staples such as bread, pasta and tortillas. Prepare meals from scratch instead of choosing convenience foods. These simple changes can protect your heart and help with weight management.
Every woman knows she should exercise. Not only does regular exercise help control weight, it helps keep the heart healthy and may fend off other diseases and health conditions. Do you hate heading to the gym? Turn on some upbeat music and dance with the kids. Take a nature walk around the neighborhood. Increase your intensity the next time you clean the house. Sneak exercise into your daily routine to keep your heart healthy.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the use of tobacco products may be one of the strongest factors in the development of heart disease. Smoking any type of cigarette, using smokeless tobacco products and exposing yourself to secondhand smoke all present a degree of risk for heart disease, as well as other medical conditions. Tobacco is full of chemicals that may cause damage to the heart and blood vessels. Smoking also forces the heart to work harder by narrowing blood vessels. The heart rate and blood pressure are also increased. Women who smoke while on birth control face an even higher risk of heart attack. Challenging as it may be, a person who quits smoking will have a lower risk of heart disease within the first year of quitting.
Extra weight does more than make your clothes fit poorly. The risk for serious conditions such as high cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes increases along with the numbers on the scale. These conditions may lead to heart disease. The body mass index (BMI), along with waist circumference, give a good indication of health risks associated with weight. The general recommendation for women is a BMI of less than 25 and a waist measurement under 35 inches. A 10 percent drop in weight can reduce the health risks previously mentioned.