Heart disease is the number one killer of women. While 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for heart disease or stroke, according to the American Heart Association, it doesn’t mean we should live in fear. Rather, it’s a reminder that we all need to be advocates for our own heart health.
Not sure how to minimize your chance of developing heart disease? A few simple lifestyle tweaks can make a big difference on your path toward a healthier you. From eating heart-healthy meals and snacks to regular exercise and minimizing stress, the strategies to protect your heart will also make you feel stronger and healthier.
The following are a few simple strategies to help you proactively lower your risk of a cardiac event.
While going to the gym or participating in a regular exercise class is a great way to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke, there are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. It can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, dancing or riding your bike. The key is to aim for some amount of physical activity 30 minutes per day.
Heart disease is more common in women who experience chronic stress. Although it’s impossible to remove all sources of daily stress, there are ways to manage your stress, including limiting exposure to triggers that bring on stressful feelings. For example, if you’re feeling short on time, you may want to re-prioritize your schedule. Seeking the support of a trusted friend, family member or counselor can provide comfort if you’re anxious about a relationship or situation. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of changing your perspective to better cope with daily stressful events.
In addition, there are good ways to relieve your stress. Exercise and yoga are natural remedies for anxiety and stress that release powerful endorphins in the brain, which reduce pain and lift your mood. Making time to connect with people around you and spending time outside can also offer significant mood-boosting benefits.
Find The Right Doctor
Your primary healthcare provider should be someone you trust and can talk to without embarrassment or anxiety. When it comes to your heart, your doctor can be a primary source of information and support to ensure you’re doing all you can to protect your health. Choose a doctor who you can relate to like a trusted confidant or friend. By developing a rapport with your doctor, you can gain the insights and modification you need to lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Know Your Numbers
Hypertension, high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar are all easy to diagnose but can often get overlooked in women who don’t obtain regular checkups. Learning your numbers is the first step in controlling heart disease before symptoms develop.
Dr. Stacey Rosen is the vice president for women’s health at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health, part of Northwell Health. She is also an associate professor of cardiology at the Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine.