What is the number one killer of women? You may be surprised to know that it’s not cancer but heart disease. The American Heart Association estimates that nearly 500,000 women die of heart disease each year. Frankly, I never gave much thought to this disease until my dearly beloved mother-in-law died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack last month. She was a vibrant, active woman who was the matriarch of the family. Her sudden passing has left an un-fillable void in our lives. I vowed I would learn everything I could about this disease to educate myself and the people I love. Since I have a family history of high blood pressure and I recently turned 41, I have decided that I need to monitor my health much more aggressively than I have in the past. I recently got a full physical including a blood test to check my cholesterol; I’ve been working very diligently on losing weight since having D2 and am making progress towards getting back to my college fighting weight. What can you do? February is American Heart Month, so take advantage of the wealth of knowledge available on line to learn more about the risk factors for heart disease and make the necessary lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy. According to the American Heart Association there are seven steps you can take right now to keep your heart healthy:
- Manage your blood pressure. A reading of 120/80 or lower is considered optimal. Keep yours in check by not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, watching your sodium in-take, getting enough exercise and eating a healthy diet high in fiber and low in fat.
- Understand your cholesterol numbers. HDL “good cholesterol” may help protect your heart by preventing plaque growth. A level of 60 mg/dL or higher is optimal. You’ll want your LDL (the bad cholesterol) to be less than 100 mg/dL. A low-fat, high-fiber diet can help keep your LDL under control. Your cholesterol number also includes Triglycerides. High levels of this fat are another indicator for heart disease risk. A level of less than 150 mg/dL or less is ideal.
- Stay active. Not only will you feel great when you exercise, you can lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol levels and reduce your blood sugar which protects your heart. Walking is a simple and effective method for keeping healthy.
- Quit smoking. Smokers have a higher risk of dying from heart disease. You can substantially lower your risk by quitting now.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Maintain a healthy BMI of 18.4 -24.9, which is considered a healthy range.
- Control your blood glucose levels. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke. If you are a diabetic, losing weight, eating healthily and keeping your blood sugar under control are vital to keeping your heart healthy.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. A diet that is low in red-meat, high in fruit and veggies, and low in processed foods is your key to keeping your figure and protecting your heart.
Do your part by learning about the risk factors for heart disease and the unique symptoms of heart attack in women. Then, take a few moments to sign up for Go Red for Women’s “Tell Five. Save Lives.” campaign so you can share life saving information about heart disease with the women in your life. What’s not to love?
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Thank you for sharing this information. It’s so relevant, important and timely. The shock of losing someone to a heart attack, especially when there was no knowledge of a heart condition, makes the loss so much harder to understand. Hopefully through this post and the Go Red campaign, lives will be saved through the early detection of heart disease.
Thanks so much for your post. I’ve been really inspired by all of the stories I’ve red on the Go Red for women site. I’m hoping that if every woman just takes a few minutes to learn about heart disease and then share what she has learned, we won’t have to lose so many women at the prime of their lives.
Ditto, and a great day to be “heart-centered” haha… I also come from a family where there is a long history of high blood pressure and heart disease, which I hope to avoid for as long as possible with a healthy lifestyle! It’s always great to reinforce what we can do, because of how often doctors still miss heart attack symptoms in women, and send them home with a pat on the head.
You are so right. Many women go to the Dr. complaining of symptoms only to be sent home. We have to take charge of our own health and part of that is understanding the risk factors and the symptoms of heart disease so that we can catch it early and get treated.
This is exactly what I need right now to help me stay focused on my health and diet. I am not too big but my cholesterol level is high. I dont smoke, so thats good. My parents have history of high bloog pressure, so I am scared that I will too. Oh well, I could use some of these tips and not have to worry that much. Thanks for sharing 🙂