Can you believe February is almost over? It has been a whirlwind of a month. There is so much packed into these 28 days; Groundhog Day, Valentine’s Day, The Hundredth Day of School, Ice Storms, and Mid Winter Break, I’m sure I’m missing something.
Did you know that it is Healthy Heart Month as well? You are probably saying to yourself, “I don’t need to know about Healthy Heart Month, I don’t smoke, I exercise, and I’m not an old man.”
Yes, heart disease affects men, but it’s us women who have to worry. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Yes, women! So instead of writing about my perfect Valentine’s Day with my husband and kids (insert sarcasm). I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you to take care of your heart, and what you can do to keep your heart healthy.
Even though heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, it is preventable. The facts are staggering; heart disease and stroke cause 1 in 3 deaths among women each year – more than all cancers combined. Even though that fact sounds daunting, fortunately, 80 percent of cardiac and stroke events can be prevented with education and action.
Risk factors that you cannot change are:
- Age- unfortunately, the numbers don’t go down here
- Gender- Women are statistically at a higher risk
- Heredity -make sure you know your family’s health history, something else for my daughters to blame me for
- Previous stroke or heart attack
However, there are risk factors that are in your control.
- High blood pressure- high blood pressure damages arteries that can become blocked and prevent blood flow to the heart muscle.
- Smoking-causes thickening and narrowing of blood vessels, raises triglycerides (a type of fat in your blood), lowers HDL or “good” cholesterol, makes blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain, damages the cells that line the blood vessels; the cells become swollen and inflamed, promotes the buildup of plaque (fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances) in blood vessels and even plaque rupture (resulting in an heart attack),
- High cholesterol- flow to the heart muscle is slowed down or blocked. The blood carries oxygen to the heart, and if not enough blood and oxygen reach your heart, you may suffer chest pain. If the blood supply to a portion of the heart is completely cut off by a blockage, the result is a heart attack.
- Physical activity- halves your risk of heart disease. This is because exercise:
- lowers blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease
- increases good HDL cholesterol that transports fat away from the arteries and back to the liver for processing
- may reduce levels of bad LDL cholesterol that can form fatty deposits in the arteries and contribute to heart disease
- improves circulation by preventing blood clots that can lead to heart attack and stroke
- increases fat loss
- helps weight-loss
- builds muscle mass.
Sound overwhelming? Here are 7 easy tips to help you prevent heart disease.
- Don’t Stress. Yes, life is stressful but you have to find a way to alleviate it. Go for a walk, take a yoga class, and have a Girls Night Out on a regular basis.
- Watch Your Weight. It’s a plus for your heart if you bring it to a healthy level. Even 5-10lbs can alleviate some pressure on the heart. The DASH Diet is specific for high blood pressure
- Diversify your menu. Try something new. Fill your plate with fruits, veggies, lean protein, and whole grains. Say no to foods that are salty, high in unhealthy fats, or fried. Repeat for the meal after that, and so on, until it’s a habit. Cook at home more. If you need ideas check out my Wildtree site at www.wildtree.com\jenniferamabile
- Excercise! Pick a couple of activities that sound like fun. Try Zumba one night, walk with your neighbors the next day. That way, you always have some choices about what to do. Exercise at least three to four times a week for 30 minutes at a time. It burns calories and helps keep extra pounds off.
- Rethink your drink. Limit alcohol. Moderate drinking may be OK, but more than that isn’t good for your health. What’s moderate drinking? Up to 1 glass a day for women, and up to 2 glasses a day for men.
- Check your numbers. You may have levels of blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar and not realize it. Your doctor can check all of these things. If any of your numbers are too high, he’ll suggest a plan of action.
- Don’t smoke. The tobacco habit isn’t just bad for your lungs. It also makes heart disease more likely.
Don’t forget to talk to your doctor. He or she will help you focus on healthy habits. Your doctor will also let you know if your family’s medical history makes you more likely to get heart disease and tell you if there’s anything else you should be doing.
What is your best heart-healthy tip? Comment below!