Heart Disease Awareness Month Tips – February is Heart Disease Awareness month and Dr. Greene of Contemporary OB/GYN is providing tips to stay heart healthy through all the months of the year.
About six times as many women die from heart disease for every one woman that dies from breast cancer. So let’s take a look at the “heart” of the issue.
Heart Disease Awareness Month Tips
First, you have to determine what your risks are. When figuring out which women are most likely to develop certain diseases, researchers talk about who is most “at risk.” Being at higher risk means that you are more likely to develop a certain disease or problem.
Several different factors will put you at higher risk of heart disease can’t be changed. Your age is one example. Younger women are obviously less likely to have heart attacks; in fact, heart disease is uncommon before the age of menopause, which is about age 51. However, the problems that lead to heart disease often start at a younger age. Another example is your race. Did you know that between the ages of 44 to 64, African American women are twice as likely to experience a heart attack as Caucasian women? Your family history is an important part of determining your heart disease risk. Having close relatives (mother, father, brothers, sisters) who had heart disease at an early age may increase your risk. Happily, many risk factors for heart disease are in your own hands and can be prevented or controlled. High blood pressure is one example of a known risk factor for heart disease that can be controlled to reduce one’s risk. Most health care experts recommended that blood pressure be kept below 120/80 mmHg. Get your blood pressure checked regularly. Be sure to keep your weight in a normal range, and lower the amount of salt in your diet by avoiding added salt, salty foods, and those listing high sodium on their labels.
Prevention of diabetes plays an important role in reducing heart disease risk. Women who have diabetes are 2 to 3 times more likely to have heart attacks than those who do not have diabetes. If you have diabetes, keep it in good control by taking your medication, monitoring your blood sugar, and by exercising and maintaining a normal weight. Studies have shown that people whose diabetes is in good control have less risk of heart attacks and other complications. Your health care provider may also suggest that you take a type of medication called a statin. Statin drugs are used to treat high cholesterol but seem to help lower heart attack risk even if you have normal cholesterol. To prevent diabetes, try to keep your weight in a normal range.
It comes as no great surprise or “late breaking news” to state that smoking cessation is a critical part of preventing heart disease. Smoking increases risk for many serious, life-threatening diseases. If you are a smoker, it’s time to quit. Even if you’re not ready to quit now, write down a list of as many ways that quitting smoking will benefit you. Read your list of reasons every day. When you’re ready, set a “quit date.” When the date arrives, get rid of all cigarettes, lighters, matches, ashtrays, and anything else that goes along with smoking. Get a friend or family member to encourage and support you (or even quit smoking along with you). You can get help from your health care provider, local hospitals and clinics, or local chapters of the American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, or American Lung Association. Nicotine patches, gum, nasal sprays, and inhalers are readily available in drugstores, or your health care provider can prescribe medications such as Zyban or Chantix to assist you.
Cholesterol is another important component of heart disease risk. You should have your cholesterol checked regularly. If you haven’t been checked, request a test from your health care provider. The test should be done while fasting for 12 hours before the blood test. You should receive information about your total cholesterol level, LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), triglycerides, and HDL (the “good” cholesterol). Your risk of heart disease is lowest if your total, LDL, and triglycerides are all in the low range and your HDL is high. Although some women inherit a tendency to have high cholesterol, most women can decrease their total and LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and raise their HDL with a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Become a label reader. Examine food labels and stay away from such high fat items as fried foods, whole milk, cheese, butter, and processed foods with high saturated fat content. Instead of fried foods, substitute baked, broiled, or grilled meats and fish, and use non fat milk, yogurt, and cottage cheese in place of whole milk products. Eating nuts daily seems to help protect your heart, but be careful: Nuts are high in calories. Eat only a small handful, and use them instead of, not in addition to, high fat snacks. Eating fish twice a week and exercising helps increase your HDL level. If diet and exercise don’t work, medications can be used to control cholesterol.
Controlling your weight is an important aspect of heart disease risk reduction. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a way of using your height and weight to find out if your weight is in the healthy range. If your BMI is more than 25, you need to lose weight.
Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily or almost daily is good for weight loss, increasing your HDL cholesterol, and making you feel good, as well as decreasing your risk of heart disease. Decide what will fit into your daily routine; find something you like and/or can do easily for exercise and drink plenty of clean water. Do it one day at a time until you’re in the habit.
This article was provided to Oakland County Moms by Dr. Greene, Contemporary OB/GYN, Contemporary Obstetrics and Gynecology in Rochester Hills. Call Conteporary OB/GYN today at 248-656-2022, or visit www.contemporarydoctors.com.
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