Think you are too young to worry about heart disease? Think again. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease is the number one cause of death in women 20 and older, killing one woman every minute. The AHA also says that 90 percent of women have one risk factor for heart disease. That means basically every woman above the age of 20 that is reading this article is at risk for heart disease. So now that you know the startling facts, what can you do as a woman to keep your heart healthy and protected from the number one killer heart disease?
To help celebrate American Heart Month (February), the American Heart Association just released new heart health guidelines for women. The first guidelines, which were published in 1999, were created around research conducted in clinical studies. What doctors have realized since 1999, is that in order for guidelines to be effective and followed by people, they need to realistic and easy to apply to one’s life. The new heart health guidelines for women from the AHA do just that; they take a very practical approach when suggesting to women how to keep their heart fit, healthy and happy.
Here are some of the 2011 guidelines:
- The number one way for women to lower their risk for heart disease is to avoid smoking, both directly and indirectly. This includes “social smoking” because “just smoking when drinking” or at parties IS smoking.
- Women should be working out for about 60 minutes a day, no less than 5 days a week. Yes that’s right, 1 hour a day, 5 out of the 7 days a week. Exercise should AT LEAST be moderate in intensity (think brisk walking) and should also include some type of muscle strength training.
- Losing weight, if necessary, is going to help reduce a woman’s risk of heart disease. For those women that don’t need to shed some pounds, maintaining your weight is just as beneficial in protecting yourself from heart disease.
- As of 2011 a woman’s diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains such as whole wheat breads and pastas as well as brown rice. Ditch the simple carbohydrates like white bread, white rice and pasta. And make sure to avoid saturated fats and trans fats as much as possible and limit intake of alcohol, sodium and sugar.
- The new heart health guidelines for women are now saying that “oily fish” should be consumed at least twice a week, in order to get the beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids that have been shown to be so heart healthy.
- Keep blood pressure down to about 120/80, which is ideal for heart health. The best way to keep your blood pressure down naturally is to follow the suggestions above: avoid smoking, exercise, eat a healthy diet and maintain a good weight.
- Get to know your cholesterol levels. Your total blood cholesterol level should be below 200 mg/dL, which puts you at relatively low risk of coronary heart disease. All women age 20 and older should know their total cholesterol and have it checked once every 5 years. You may need to have your cholesterol checked more often than every five years if your total cholesterol is 200 mg/dL or more.
For more information on the 2011 New Heart Health Guidelines for Women, including more specific suggestions for women with pre-existing conditions that have put them at higher risk for heart disease, visit: http://www.newsroom.heart.org/file.php/1606/01-Guideline+Recommendations…