by Carolyn Thomas ♥ @HeartSisters
Over 80% of women have one or more heart disease risk factors (and almost half have three or more!) yet most of us are shockingly unaware that we are at risk. Some cardiac risk factors (like a history of pregnancy complications or cancer treatment) have only been widely recognized in the past decade.
Did you know that 80% of heart disease is preventable? Here’s how:
♥ Stop smoking – all smoking! Learn more about the effect of those public smoking bans on our health.
♥ Eat a high-fibre heart-healthy diet (like the Mayo Clinic-recommended Mediterranean diet) and seek out heart-smart recipes to reduce sodium, sugar and saturated fat in your cooking
♥ Maintain a healthy weight (waist measurement <35″ for women)
♥ Keep blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control
♥ Exercise at least 30 minutes every single day – yes, EVERY day! See also: Were you “born to walk”? As cardiologist Dr. John Mandrola likes to say:
“You only need to exercise on the days you plan to eat!”
♥ Get a good night’s sleep! Sleep problems have been linked to increased cardiovascular risk.
♥ Talk to your doctor about screening tests for heart disease if you have a family history (Mum or sister < age 65, Dad or brother < age 55 when they had a cardiac event of some kind) or if you’ve ever had pregnancy complications like pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, premature babies, full-term/low birth weight baby, etc. – or if you have been treated with radiation or chemotherapy for certain cancers.
♥ If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s especially important to manage your condition carefully to decrease your risk of serious complications, including heart disease.
♥ Learn how to reduce and manage chronic daily stress. (and don’t forget to b-r-e-a-t-h-e…)
♥ If you have been diagnosed with depression or other mental health issues, make sure you follow treatment recommendations carefully. Research suggests a strong link between depression and subsequent heart disease – especially among women. In one study, for example, women living with depression had a 70% increased risk of developing heart disease compared to those without depression.
♥ Educate yourself about your own heart health. If you haven’t already done so, subscribe free to get Heart Sisters email updates about emerging news on women’s heart health and each new post here (just look at this page sidebar to your right and click Follow Heart Sisters.
♥ Do activities that can improve heart health throughout your day: gardening, biking, exercise classes, walking, stair climbing – even doing housework! Every movement counts. See also: Heart Disease is a Sitting Disease
♥ Stop being what we call a Type E-personality: “Everything to Everybody!” This is especially true for women, who are often the nurturers and caretakers of both friends and family members, sometimes at the expense of their own health. See also: Are You a Priority in your Own Life?
♥ Join WomenHeart to receive monthly newsletters and research updates about women’s heart health, or to join their online support group of thousands of female heart patients around the world. Membership in the WomenHeart: The National Coalition for Women with Heart Disease is FREE.
NOTE FROM CAROLYN: I wrote much more about symptoms and other topics in my book A Woman’s Guide to Living with Heart Disease (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2017). You can ask for this book at your local bookshop, or order it online (paperback, hardcover or e-book) at Amazon. If you order it directly from Johns Hopkins University Press (use their code HTWN), you will save 30% off the list price.
Note: information on this site is not intended as a substitute for medical advice.