The Professionals at The Cleveland Clinic Heart Center and Women's Health Center Offer These Tips:
- Know the facts. Heart disease is the number one killer of women over age 25 in the U.S.
- Don't smoke. Even one or two cigarettes a day dramatically increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious conditions. PLUS it ages the skin and give you bad breath.
- Exercise. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking daily reduces the risk of heart disease and has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer too. Use the pedometer goal of 10,000 steps a day.
- Manage your weight. Normal body mass index (BMI) ranges from 18.5 to 24.9 kgn/m2. A BMI higher than 27 indicates overweight, while a BMI higher than 30 indicates obesity.
- Follow a heart-healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fat (partially hydrogenated fats); also eat plant-based foods, such as fruit and vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Remember, trans fatty acids are bad fats. Avoid them! Instead, focus on the good fats: omega-3 fatty acids, found in tuna, salmon, flaxseed, almonds, and walnuts, and monounsaturated fats, found in olive and peanut oils.
- Know your risk. Ask your doctor about the ultra-sensitive C-reactive protein (us-CRP) blood test. Elevated us-CRP levels are related to an increased risk for heart attack, restenosis of coronary arteries after angioplasty, stroke and peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
- Know your family history of cardiovascular disease. Thin, physically fit people can die from heart disease. Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease in women more than in men. Women with diabetes are considered to have "heart disease equivalence" and should be treated as such. Know your cholesterol levels.
- Monitor your blood pressure. New guidelines indicate that ideas blood pressure should be below 120/80. High blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
- Monitor your cholesterol levels. The target level for LDL cholesterol, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, is under 130 mg/dL for most people and under 100 mg/dL for people with heart disease, diabetes and known coronary artery disease or vascular disease, such as hardening of the arteries.
- Know the symptoms of a heart attack. Seek immediate medical attention if you experience these symptoms that last longer than 15 minutes and are not relieved by rest or medications: pain or discomfort in your chest, left arm or back; unusually rapid heart beat; shortness of breath; and/or nausea or fatigue. Do not delay!