Did you know? February is American Heart Month, with Friday, February 5 marking the celebration of the American Heart Association’s National Go Red Day to continue to raise awareness for the prevention and treatment of heart disease in women.
Heart disease is the number one killer of women, causing one in three deaths each year—which is approximately one woman every minute. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease in the United States remains “understudied, underdiagnosed and undertreated in women, which has unfortunately been the reason why so many don’t know how to spot the signs of heart disease early on.”
The good news is, there is a lot you can do to avoid becoming a statistic. Here are five simple things you can do to take better care of your heart. Because those boots are made for walking, but not without a strong, healthy heart to keep you going the distance!
1. Get plenty of sleep
Most people need seven to eight hours a night to be well-rested. The problem is, so many of us confuse sleep with rest and insist on doing multiple activities a day without also taking time for rest and relaxation. Sleep is not just downtime. It’s a time when your brain forms new pathways to help your memory. Some use Yoga and Meditation to get an extra dose of daily downtime, and others turn in early to get some rest right before they lay down for the evening. Our advice: if you don’t have a downtime routine, get one! Poor sleep can also exacerbate depression symptoms and depression increases your risk of heart attacks. In fact studies show poor sleep — anything less than six hours — hurts women more than it does men.
2. Get Active
Any kind of exercise is essential for your heart, including sex (hallelujah!), studies show. The American Heart Association recommends you get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise of any kind. Exercise lowers your blood pressure, helps you lose weight, increase your good cholesterol, reduces your bad cholesterol. Less than HALF of all adults meet the minimum standard for exercise recommended by the government. That’s just 2½ hours a week of moderate aerobic exercise like walking or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise like running. Being overweight is hard on your heart (and your heels) so stay active to maintain good conditioning for your heart.
3. Drink to your health…in moderation of course
They say a drink a day can keep the heart doctor away. A drink, by the way, is not an extra-large tumbler. It’s 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits or 1 ounce of 100-proof spirits. This is not just limited to red wine, which does have heart-healthy antioxidants. Any alcoholic drink can increase levels of “good” cholesterol and limit artery damage. Eating healthy is also essential; watch refined sugar, salt and fat and eat lots of fruits and vegetables (in the 4.5 cup range).
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4. Quit smoking, Will Ya?!
Studies show that in young adults who who have suffered a heart attack, 90% admit to being smokers. It’s a little known fact, but most smokers die from heart disease long before they’ll get lung cancer. Smoking can create blood clots, decreases your levels of good cholesterol, makes it harder to exercise and can raise your blood pressure temporarily, none of which is good for your heart.
5. Visit your doctor regularly
Get screened for heart disease. Regular screening can catch risks early and prevent future problems. The tests you need depend on your age, how much you exercise, your diet and family history (if your parents or siblings have heart problems, you’re at risk). The American Heart Association suggests everyone start monitoring their heart health by age 20. Your doctor should check your blood pressure, your weight and your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. You may want a more comprehensive check, which typically looks at your BMI and your waist circumference. Your blood sugar is measured and your lipid profiles are tested, too. High blood pressure greatly increases your chance of having heart problems. If your blood pressure is above 120/80mm, you may want more regular checks.
For women, it’s especially important to know the signs of heart trouble, as they can be different from men’s. Classic chest pain is common with women as it is with men, but not all women feel it. Women may have a sensation in their neck or jaw, feel palpitations, weakness, fatigue, a sense of dread — or classic symptoms that can be confused with gastrointestinal disease including vomiting, nausea and indigestion.
If you’ve got any of these concerns, we suggest getting checked right away, a delay in treatment significantly reduces your chances of survival.
For more information please visit the American Heart Association online at www.heart.org. Because in order to be a #SoleSurvivor, you must tend to your heart as earnestly you do your feet!