Wearing red is a great way to help raise awareness for heart disease in women throughout National Heart Month. To be even more involved in the fight against heart disease, you can also take action when it comes to a few significant changes that will have a big impact on your heart.
If this list is overwhelming at first, choose just one thing that feels manageable to you. Positive changes in any area can make a difference in your health.
For women (and men), here are 7 things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease:
- Get active. Daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life. Try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, five times per week. This will lower your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Start with walking and try to get your heart rate up.
- Eat better. This is one of your best weapons against heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet will fuel your body, help it make new cells and create energy you need to thrive and fight disease. Stock your kitchen with healthy foods like vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich whole-grains and low-fat dairy products.
- Lose weight. Too much fat, especially around your waist, puts you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Extra weight is a strain on your body, so when you shed excess fat, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. Even losing as few as five or ten pounds can produce a dramatic blood pressure reduction.
- Control cholesterol. Cholesterol is a waxy substance our bodies use to make cell membranes and some hormones. When you have too much bad cholesterol (LDL), it combines with white blood cells and forms plaque in your veins and arteries. These blockages lead to heart disease and stroke. The above tips will help you control cholesterol.
- Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure, means the blood running through your arteries flows with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, which leads to blockages, blood clots and hardened, weakened arteries. Again, all of the tips mentioned above can dramatically improve your blood pressure.
- Reduce blood sugar. If your fasting blood sugar level is below 100, you are in the healthy range. If not, your results could indicate diabetes or pre-diabetes. Lowered blood sugar helps protect your vital organs, including your heart.
- Stop smoking. Smoking damages your entire circulatory system and increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Those who smoke have a higher risk of developing heart disease. Quitting is the best thing you can do since your lungs can begin to heal as soon as you quit.
We encourage everyone to take action on these 7 items regardless of your risk. But finding out your risk for heart disease is important.
The first step to doing that is getting a full picture of your health. Visit your doctor for a complete health screening to check blood sugar, blood
iChooseB is Brookwood Baptist Medical Center’s new online community where Birmingham women of all ages gather to share their stories, pictures and experiences with each other. From hospital stays and pregnancy questions to health, wellness and nutrition information, there’s something for every woman at iChooseB.com. Whether you’re welcoming new life into the world, learning to take better care of yourself or just celebrating life as a woman, you’ll find others just like you at iChooseB.com.
Your health is too important to leave to chance. Let us help you find the physician that’s right for you.