About 90% of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease, and almost a third of women’s deaths is caused by heart disease, and yet a very small percentage of American women believe that heart disease is a huge health risk. One of the main reasons is that the symptoms of heart disease in women are often misunderstood.
Heart disease has an impact on your blood vessels and cardiovascular system, and can manifest in any of these ways:
- Heart attack caused by atherosclerosis, or buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries that prevent blood from reaching the heart
- Heart failure – caused by the heart not pumping blood properly or not receiving sufficient oxygen
- Arrhythmia – abnormal beating of the heart; too fast, or too slow. Heart may be unable to pump blood to meet the body’s needs
- Heart valve problems – when the valves don’t close the blood leaks through them; or, the valve leaflets may prolapse into the upper chamber, causing blood to flow back through them.
Though it’s true that men are prone to heart disease than pre-menopausal women, women aged 55 and over have almost the same risk as men do; it is therefore critical that women take steps to reduce this risk. Here are some ways to promote heart health:
- Exercise daily: At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day is required for good heart health. It can be jogging, aerobics, hitting the gym, zumba, swimming, cycling, or anything you like. If you cannot manage every day, make sure that you work out at least 3 to 4 times a week.
- Stay fit: If you’ve got some extra weight, we recommend you shed it as quickly as you can. Maintaining optimal weight is one of the most important things to ensure a healthy heart. Of course this involves working out and eating right – and is always easier said than done. But start today, and keep at it.
- Healthy diet: Eating right doesn’t mean you starve yourself! It just means that you need to be careful of what you’re eating. Healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts like almonds and pistachios, oily fish, even a dollop of butter occasionally is good. However, avoid foods that contain trans fats like margarine, palm oil, packaged snacks, and so on. Fresh veggies and fruit, lean meats, lentils, seeds, fiber rich foods – are all good. Limit takeout or microwave dinners and cook fresh at home.
- Cut down on the drinking: Yes, many of us enjoy a drink or two – and it’s fine as long as it stays that way. Avoid binge drinking; that danger is always present at parties.
- Give up smoking: If you’re an avid puffer, it’s time to douse that cigarette. Now. The damage is probably done already, but still, better late than never.
- Manage your blood sugar: As you age, the body’s ability to make proper use of insulin diminishes; in some cases, the quantity of insulin produced is insufficient. In either case, it could push up your blood sugar levels. Make sure you test yourself every month to keep track of your glucose. If you’re already diabetic, you may need more frequent testing. Make sure you avoid sugar, and take your meds regularly to keep the glucose at acceptable levels.
- Keep cholesterol low: Elevated cholesterol level is one of the biggest contributors to heart disease, and it’s critical that you manage it well. Get a lipid profile blood test done to assess your blood cholesterol levels; if it is just moderately high, you may be able to control it with diet – eating foods rich in HDL and low in LDL, and avoiding trans-fats completely. However if it is high, you may need statins to control it. In any case, you must consult your physician, and follow their advice.
- Be stress free: Easier said than done! However, it is very important. Do some breathing exercises, attend a yoga class, spend time with gurgling babies or puppies, do gardening, go to the beach, or listen to some soothing music – whatever calms your frayed nerves.
With a few precautions, you can enjoy a richer, healthier life – start today.
Also view our presentation on Preventive Healthcare for Women