Seven Heart-Healthy Habits for Women
Heart disease, also called cardiovascular disease or coronary artery disease, is the leading cause of death in women (as well as men) in the United States, and a major cause of death and disability throughout the world. Symptoms of heart disease in women often are subtle, so it is important to take steps to reduce your risk for coronary heart disease. Here are some tips to help you maintain a healthy heart:
- Get healthy fats in your diet. The omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish like salmon (eat at least two 3.5-oz servings per week) and the monounsaturated fats in olive and canola oils raise good cholesterol and lower bad.
- Quit smoking. Fewer than 10% of quitters succeed without help. Try a combination of nicotine replacement, medications that fight cravings and counseling.
- Walk 30 minutes a day. The New England Journal of Medicine reported that women who exercised briskly for 30 minutes a day five times a week substantially reduced their risk of a cardiovascular event like angina or heart attack.
- Eat fresh fruits and veggies. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and beta-carotene (which the body converts to vitamin A) may help reduce arterial plaque buildup by easing inflammation.
- Cut down on salt. Sodium raises blood pressure, but your salt shaker probably isn't to blame: Processed foods are loaded with "stealth salt." Read labels and aim for less than 2,300 mg per day (1,500 mg if you are older than age 50, you've been diagnosed with high blood pressure, diabetes or kidney disease; or you are African American).
- Get happy. Happier people enjoy a 22% lower risk of developing heart disease, says a Columbia University study. Conversely, depression can triple your risk. Build a support network of friends, and try a relaxing exercise like tai chi or low-impact yoga.
- Talk to your doc! If you're experiencing symptoms such as stomach pain, shortness of breath, shoulder pain, fatigue or nausea, ask your doctor if it might be heart disease.
From our sister publication, Diabetes Focus magazine (Winter 2010)