Heart Health

Heart disease isn’t just a man’s problem. It’s the number one killer of women in the United States and a leading cause of disability among women. Women of all ages need to take heart disease seriously, and all women can take steps to prevent it by practicing healthy lifestyle habits.

Be Proactive Through Diet, Lifestyle & Exercise

By Laura Childers

Ideal Cardiovascular Health

The marks of a healthy heart include blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg, total cholesterol less than 200 mg/dL, fasting blood glucose less than 100 mg/dL (and not on medicine for blood sugar), and a body mass index less than 25 kg/m (body mass in kilograms per square meter in height).

At Risk: Women have a higher risk of heart disease if they smoke cigarettes, have a poor diet, do not get regular physical activity, are overweight or obese, have a family history of heart or vascular disease, have blood pressure higher than 120/80, have abnormal cholesterol levels, or have lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or metabolic syndrome.

High Risk: Women have a high risk of heart disease if they have an existing coronary heart disease (heart attack, bypass surgery, heart stents), carotid artery disease (narrowed or blocked arteries that take blood to your brain), blocked arteries in the legs, an abdominal aortic aneurysm (weakness in the artery in the abdomen), chronic kidney disease, or diabetes.

What You Can Do

According to the American Heart Association, 80 percent of cardiac events in women could be prevented if women made the right choices for their hearts involving diet, exercise and abstinence from smoking. Take the following measures to ensure heart health for life!

Lower Your Cholesterol! High blood cholesterol has no symptoms, and many people have it without knowing it. Find out what your cholesterol levels are, so you can lower them if you need to. If you need to lower your LDL (or “bad” cholesterol), work with your doctor to create a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol, and an exercise plan.

Reduce High Blood Pressure! As a woman, you have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure if you are more than 20 lbs. overweight, have a family history of high blood pressure, or have reached the age of menopause. More than 73 percent of women ages 65 to 74 have high blood pressure.

Stop Smoking! The good news is that when you stop smoking, your risk of heart disease and stroke can be cut in half just one year later and continues to decline until it’s as low as a nonsmoker’s risk.

Get Physically Active! For most healthy people, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most or all days of the week to condition your heart and lungs.