From the Blog

Why heart disease should top every woman’s list of health concerns

It’s National Women’s Health Week. We’re celebrating the women in our lives with a three-part series.

You probably know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States. But, did you know that since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease? There’s more:

  • Heart disease causes 1 out of 3 women’s deaths each year – that’s one woman every minute – while breast cancer is the cause for 1 in 31 deaths each year

  • Only 1 in 5 American women believes heart disease is her greatest health threat

  • 90 percent of women have one or more risk factors for developing heart disease

Yep, heart disease is serious stuff. And it clearly affects most of us, even just from a risk perspective. But there are several things you can do to lower your risk of developing heart disease – and live a longer, healthier life if you’ve already been diagnosed. Here’s how:

5 Ways to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease

  1. Manage stress. We’re putting this first because, according to the American Medical Association, stress is the underlying cause of more than 60 percent of human illness and disease. Chronic stress can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage artery walls. Identifying major stressors in your life is a good place to start. You can also make more time for stress-relieving activities such as exercise, laughter, yoga, reading and cooking.

  1. Eat healthy. The guidelines are fairly simple: cut out processed and junk foods, and replace them with fresh, whole foods. We’re talking fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and lean meats like chicken and turkey. Eliminate or seriously limit sodium and sugar – especially sodas and baked goods.

  1. Get consistent exercise. If exercise isn’t part of your weekly routine, start by walking every day. No fancy gear required, you can do it anywhere, and it’s a great time to listen to music, a podcast or just enjoy your time in nature. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.

  1. Sleep, sleep and sleep some more. The recommended six to eight hours a night is no joke. A 2011 study by the American Heart Association revealed that poor sleep quality is linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, a potential cause of heart disease.

  1. Quit smoking. It probably goes without saying, but smoking is the most preventable cause of early death in America. It also increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times. Whether you join a smoking cessation program (offered by many employers) or opt for medication or nicotine replacements like a patch or gum, there are options to help you quit for life. Trust us, your heart – and your loved ones – will thank you.

Source: American Heart Association