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Empowering Women With Heart-Healthy Habits

February 26, 2024

By Nicole Harris, MD

As the primary caregivers and nurturers, it’s no secret that women often overlook their own well-being, which includes their cardiovascular health. The unique life changes women go through, including pregnancy and menopause, put women at a greater risk for developing cardiovascular disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 60 million women – nearly 40% of females in the United States – are living with some form of heart disease. It’s the No. 1 cause of death among women, leading to 1 in 3 deaths annually.

Heart disease can strike at any age and kills more women than all forms of cancer combined.The keys to prevention are education and healthy lifestyle changes. By incorporating a few heart-healthy habits into their daily lives, women can help protect themselves against heart disease so they can be there for those who depend on them.

  • Exercising: Exercise is the cornerstone of good health, and this is especially true when it comes to heart health. Your heart is a muscle and exercise strengthens it. Women should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, heart-pumping exercise weekly through cardio training, such as brisk walking, cycling, and swimming, as well as strength training.

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  • Eating mindfully: A heart-healthy diet is not about depriving yourself; it’s about making smart choices. Focus on eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, such as fish and chicken. Limit saturated and trans fats and instead opt for heart-healthy fats like those found in salmon, avocados, nuts, and olive oil. Be conscious of how much sodium you consume, and limit added sugars.

  • Managing stress: As a woman, you juggle multiple roles and responsibilities, which inevitably can lead to increased stress levels. If you don’t manage stress appropriately, it can take a toll on your heart health. Stress-management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga can also benefit your heart and mental outlook. Taking time for self-care may seem like a luxury but is a necessity for overall well-being.

  • Getting enough quality sleep: Quality sleep is essential for all aspects of your health and well-being. As a woman, you should strive to get between seven and nine hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Not getting adequate rest can lead to various health consequences, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Creating a relaxing bedtime routine and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule can contribute to a good night’s rest, leading to a greater quality of life.

  • Having regular check-ups: Establishing a relationship with your primary care physician is essential for your health. Through regular check-ups, your doctor is able to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other important health indicators. Early detection and management of these and other important risk factors can help reduce the likelihood of heart-related issues.

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  • Kicking the habit: Smoking is a significant risk for developing cardiovascular heart disease. The chemicals in cigarette smoke cause your blood to thicken, forming clots inside your veins and arteries. When you kick the habit, you experience immediate and long-term benefits for heart health, including a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.

  • Limiting alcohol: Excessive drinking may lead to heart problems. Be mindful of your alcohol intake. If you must have a drink, limit yourself to one glass a day.

  • Staying hydrated: Proper hydration is often overlooked as a factor in cardiovascular health; however, drinking adequate water helps maintain blood volume, making it easier for the heart to pump blood. Women should aim to consume at least eight 8- ounce glasses of water daily.

Taking charge of your heart health is a proactive step toward a vibrant and healthy life. By incorporating heart-healthy tips into your daily routines, you can empower yourself to lead a happier and healthier life.

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