We know: You don’t want to think about the possibility of having a heart attack, but the shocking truth is that heart disease, “silent killer” is responsible for 25% of all femaledeaths, making it the number one killer of women. That means one thing: It’s important for you to learn more about heart health and take action that will decrease your risk factors. In addition to talking to your your doctor to learn more about what puts you at risk, here are some basic heart health facts you need to know:
The stereotypical image of someone having a heart attack is hearing them complain of left-arm pain, followed by clutching their chest and collapsing. But this isn’t always the case for women, who are more likely to experience a heat similar to heartburn, lightheadedness, nausea or indigestion, shortness of breath, fatigue, or pain in the neck, jaw, or back.
Even if you’re young and healthy, you still need to be thinking about heart health, especially if you have certain health problems. People who have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, anxiety, or depression are all at risk of a heart disease. If you are pregnant, issues like gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia can also raise your risk.
Not all the news is bad! Certain activities and behaviors can decrease your risk of heart disease and heart attacks. Three of the most important ones? Exercising, paying attention to what you eat, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol.
Try to get in as much movement as possible and don’t think about exercise as a chore. Focus on moving for pleasure. Exercise improves your overall wellness, including your heart health.
As for paying attention to what you eat, your priorities should be decreasing cholesterol and saturated fats and increasing fiber and good fats, like monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend shifting eating patterns to nutrient-dense foods and increase variety from fruits and vegetables. In addition, enjoy your grains whole, limit your sugar, and if you eat meat, make sure most of it is lean. Avocados and avocado oil make great alternatives for cooking or use oils rather than solid fats where possible. Choose dressings and spreads that are made from vegetable oils rather than solid fats. These “good fats” can help your body absorb vitamins A, D, K and E without raising your cholesterol. Plus, avocados are full of fiber — a 50 gram serving gives you 11% of your dailyrecommended fiber—, and they are 100% cholesterol-free!
Finally, decrease alcohol and stop smoking. A glass of red wine with dinner might have some health benefits, but too much alcohol raises your risk of heart disease. And if you are a smoker, to learn more about the benefits of quitting, speak with your physician to learn how you can prioritize cessation as a health goal. Your heart will thank you!