Wellness & Education

Wellness & Education

Tips on Preventing Heart Disease from Portland Women's Health Specialists

Heart disease is the number one cause of death in women, and accounts for more fatalities in women than all accidents, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and all cancers combined (1). While certain factors – age, genetics, and environment – are largely out of our control, heart health can be improved through lifestyle changes.

Move your body! Take the stairs, get off the bus a stop earlier than usual, dance around the house while you clean, chase your kids on the playground, join a belly dance or water aerobics class, ride your bike to the grocery store, hula hoop in the backyard with your teen. Whatever way you choose to exercise, make it fun so you’re more likely to stick with it. Eventually, work up to a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (rapid heart rate, sweating, fatigue) spread throughout the week (1). This is only 20 minutes a day, three to four days a week!

Women's Health Specialists - Healthy Eating RecommendationsSnack on fruits, nuts, and vegetables instead of something from the vending machine. Berries contain cancer-fighting antioxidants and yellow fruits and veggies like melon and bell pepper contain heart-healthy flavonoids. Nuts contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which perform double duty as heart helpers and brain boosters. For more Omega-3s, eat fish like salmon and mackerel at least twice per week (1).

Moderate your intake of alcohol and saturated fat. While a single glass of red wine has been shown in some studies to help keep the heart healthy, regular consumption of large quantities of alcohol put undue stress on the heart, liver, and other organs. Saturated (solid at room temperature) and trans (partially hydrogenated) fats increase cholesterol levels when consumed regularly. Cook with heart-healthy olive oil instead of butter and avoid pre-packaged foods, especially baked goods, as those are often high in trans fats and added sugars.

Stop smoking, and encourage your loved ones to join you. Tar and carbon monoxide reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood. Second-hand smoke carries similar risks. Smokeless tobacco isn’t risk-free, either, as nicotine shrinks blood vessels and other chemicals narrow arteries, putting undue stress on the heart. Women over 35 who smoke and take birth control are also at increased risk of stroke.

Maintain a healthy weight. Yo-yo dieting puts nearly as much strain on the heart as does being overweight. Discuss your ideal healthy size with your doctor, and plan to lose weight slowly and steadily. Dropping more than two pounds per week, according to the National Institutes of Health, puts you at increased risk of gaining it all back and then some.

Scrub those pearly whites. Gum disease is linked to heart disease, so be sure to brush and floss at least twice per day, and get regular cleanings and checkups at the dentist. If your insurance policy doesn’t cover dental visits, many community colleges offer dental screenings, cleanings, and fillings at little or no cost.

Woman's Wellness Exams - Portland, ORSee your doctor. Regular checkups, including screening for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes (1), can help monitor and mitigate your risk of heart disease. Women’s Healthcare Associates has nearly 90 providers who can help you make a plan for a heart-healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and smoking cessation counseling. Call one of our 11 Oregon locations today to get started on the road to a healthier heart.

Sources: (1) Effectiveness-Based Guidelines for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women 2011 Update: A Guideline From the American Heart Association. Circulation 2011, 123:1243-1262; Images: The Wellness Workshop and Women's Healthcare Associates.

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