Did you know heart disease is often more debilitating and deadly in women than in men? It’s the leading cause of death in women over 65. To put this in perspective, heart attacks kill six times as many women each year as breast cancer.
February is nationally known as American Heart Month and it’s right around the corner. This makes it the perfect time to put a spotlight on women’s heart health and focus on preventive strategies. Here are five tips to keep your female heart healthy:
Know (and modify) your risk. Some heart disease risk factors can’t be changed. These include increasing age and family history. Other risk factors can be modified with lifestyle changes or medication. These include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, smoking and diabetes. High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can also increase your risk.
Get Screened. Talk to your primary care physician about your heart health. Key screenings for monitoring heart health include blood pressure tests, blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) tests, and a fasting lipoprotein profile to test cholesterol. These diagnostic tests can help determine your long-term risk and identify possible lifestyle changes to reduce your future risk of developing heart disease.
Keep Moving. Exercising regularly is key to keeping your heart healthy. The American Heart Association recommends a weekly exercise goal of at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity. The easy version: aim to exercise 30 minutes a day, five times a week. Wearable tracking devices that log your progress (or vibrate when you’ve been sitting too long) can help keep you on track. Joining a group exercise class can also help motivate you.
Eat right. Make smart choices about the types of foods you eat. Instead of sugary snacks, reach for fruits, vegetables, poultry, whole grains and dairy. Avoid sauces and dressings, which can be full of hidden sugars and calories.
Understand the Role Menopause Plays. Studies show that a woman’s risk of a heart attack increases about 10 years after menopause. It’s thought that a decline in the natural hormone estrogen may be a factor. Let’s be clear – menopause does not cause cardiovascular disease. However, there may be an increase in risk factors for heart disease around the time of menopause – another reason that it’s so important to get screened at regular intervals.
How healthy Is your heart? An Ochsner cardiologist can perform the necessary tests and discuss your risk factors. Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist today! Ochsner.org/heartmonth
Dr. William Bennett received his medical degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and completed his internal medicine residency at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, where he served as Chief Medical Resident. He has completed fellowships in Cardiology and Vascular Medicine at Stanford University, followed by an advanced fellowship in Interventional Cardiology at Yale University. Dr. Bennett is a member of the American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association and the American College of Physicians. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bennett at St. Charles Parish Hospital (1057 Paul Maillard Road, Luling, LA 70070), please call 985-785-6242.