Easy Ways Women Can Put Their Heart First in February
Heart disease claims more women's lives than cancer. In fact, it's the No. 1 killer of women in the U.S. And it's not just an older woman's health problem. Even women in their 30s and 40s are at risk. What you do now for your heart will repay you in heart health benefits as you age.
Your risk for heart disease and heart attack increases with the number of risk factors you have and how severe they are. Some risk factors are more dangerous than others.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical exercise
- Stress and depression
- Family history
- Preeclampsia, a condition that develops during pregnancy
Making even small changes can lead to big benefits in your heart health. Start with these five steps to reduce your risk for heart disease:
- Quit smoking. There are more aids than ever to help you, starting with our smoking cessation events.
- Ask your healthcare provider to review reachable hearth healthy goals with you.
- Try to increase your physical activity each day. Even walking can make a big difference.
- Adjust your diet and cooking styles to include non-processed meals and fresh fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Stay away from products high in sugar like soda.
- Destress whenever you can. Even grabbing a minute for yourself can go a long way.
Heart Healthy Screenings
Certain screening tests can help determine if you are at risk for heart disease and provide a baseline for your heart health. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends these screening tests beginning at age 20:
- Blood pressure: Once every two years; if your blood pressure is higher than 120/80, you may need to have it checked more often. Women age 65 and older have a greater risk for high blood pressure than men.
- Fasting lipoprotein profile: Every four to six years to evaluate total blood cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. Older women are at greater risk than men for high triglycerides.
- Body weight: Your healthcare provider may start recording your waist circumference and your body mass index, or BMI (a measure of body fat based on your height and weight)
At age 45, you should also begin having your blood sugar level measured every three years. This screening test shows when your blood glucose levels are high, which raises your risk for developing diabetes - a risk factor for heart disease.
The AHA also recommends that you and your healthcare provider review your physical activity levels, habits and diet to evaluate your heart health.
Not sure where to start? Ask your healthcare provider about the heart health screenings that make sense for you and how often you should be screened, given your age, your health and family history.