There are many myths regarding heart disease. Some think it’s just a man’s disease that doesn’t really affect women. Others think that it can be cured with surgery or medication.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the United States. For women in the U.S., it’s the leading cause of death.
The good news is that decisions you make every day greatly impact your risk of developing heart disease. Keep reading to find out how to prevent and control heart disease in your life.
Heart Disease Defined
According to the CDC, heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood flow to the heart. Decreased blood flow can cause a heart attack. Once the damage is done, you’re more susceptible to future heart problems—regardless of surgery or medication.
Heart disease may or may not cause visible symptoms in its victims. If you have heart disease, you may experience pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, throat, upper back or abdomen. Or you may not experience any symptoms until you have a heart attack.
Certain risk factors, including health conditions and lifestyle choices, increase your risk of developing heart disease. Over time, the following risk factors may lead to serious artery damage:
- High blood pressure
- High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- Having diabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Poor diet
- Excessive alcohol use
9 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease
Making healthier lifestyle choices and properly managing any other medical conditions are vital to lowering your risk of developing heart disease. Follow these simple steps to optimize your heart health:
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. The Mediterranean diet is recommended which includes a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Limit your intake of saturated fat, added sugars, cholesterol and salt. Whole-food, plant-based eating may also lower your risk of heart disease.
- Get sufficient, regular exercise. The CDC recommends that each week adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can put strain on your heart, lead to blood vessel damage and other health conditions.
- Manage blood pressure and cholesterol. Excessive LDL cholesterol can cause plaque build up in your arteries, reducing blood flow to your heart and/or brain. In turn, this makes your blood pressure higher. Also, not getting enough sleep (at least seven hours) could lead to higher blood pressure.
- Quit or avoid smoking. Smoking causes your arteries to become hardened and narrow because of cholesterol plaque and calcium. Smoking is also a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.
- Limit alcohol use. The CDC recommends no more than one drink per day for women.
- Reduce stress. When you’re chronically stressed, your blood pressure may increase, putting you at a greater risk for a heart attack or stroke.
- Visit your healthcare provider regularly. Your healthcare provider may check your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight, and blood glucose, or prescribe medication to help you stay on top of your heart health.
- Manage your medical conditions. For example, women with diabetes have a greater risk of developing heart disease than men with diabetes. Keeping diabetes under control can help safeguard your heart health.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.