Here’s How To Keep Your Heart Healthy

Miami Center of Excellence Women's Health Article | Heart Health | Here’s How To Keep Your Heart Healthy

February is National Heart Month. Heart disease, often thought of to be a problem for men, is surprisingly the most common cause of death for women in the United States. All women are subject to heart disease, no matter the genetic disposition. Fortunately, you can take steps to understand the unique symptoms of heart disease in women and to begin to reduce your risk.

Women and Heart Disease

One of the challenges of heart disease in women is how the symptoms are presented. While the most common heart attack symptoms are some kind of pain or pressure in the chest, is it not always severe or even the main symptom. This especially rings true in women. It is also true that many women will have a heart attack without chest pain. Many of those symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Lightheadedness/dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Discomfort in the neck, jaw, shoulder, and/or upper back

Not only can these symptoms appear more subtle, but they also occur more often when women are resting, or even asleep, making it harder to notice.

Heart disease risk factors for women

There are many risk factors for heart disease like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity that affect both women and men. But there are some factors that play a bigger role in the development of heart disease in women. For example:

  • Depression and Mental stress: Women’s hearts are affected by stress at a greater rate than men’s. Talk to your doctor if you are having the symptoms of depression.
  • Smoking: Smoking is a greater risk factor for heart disease in women than it is in men.
  • Diabetes: Women with diabetes are at greater risk of heart disease than are men with diabetes.
  • Menopause: Low levels of estrogen after menopause pose a significant risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease in the smaller blood vessels (coronary microvascular disease).
  • Pregnancy Complications: High blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy can increase women’s long-term risk of high blood pressure and diabetes and increase the risk of development of heart disease in the mothers.
  • Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy: Some chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapies, such as those used to treat breast cancer, may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Why Exercising Is So Important

The most important thing you can do for your heart is to keep it pumping — literally. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or some combination thereof. That translates to about 30 minutes a day, five days per week. (That’s only 1.5% of your entire week!)

Once you’ve accomplished this, aim for 300 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 150 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or about 60 minutes a day, five days a week. And try to include two strength training session two or more days/week for an extra kick.

Interval Training for The Win!

Combining short bursts of intense activity in between lighter more steady-state activity is the best way to get your heart working and keep it going long after the workout is complete. Interval training can also burn more calories than continuous exercise, and help you maintain a healthy weight — a key factor in preventing heart disease.

Heart Healthy Foods You’ll Actually Like To Eat

Forget what you think is boring about healthy eating. Having a diet rich in color and texture is an excellent way to fight off heart disease. Start by adding some of the following:

  • Berries: When summer comes around, enjoy a colorful bowl of fresh strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc. The more colorful, the better! In the offseason, grab a bag of flash-frozen berries for a delicious morning smoothie!
  • Avocados: Avo toast isn’t just for millennials. These heart-healthy monounsaturated fats have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol.
  • Fatty Fish: It’s no secret that Omega-3 is where it’s at when it comes to heart health. Stick with salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines for a fatty acid rich meal
  • Dark Chocolate: One study showed those that ate chocolate 5x per week had a 57% lower risk of coronary heart disease than non-chocolate eaters. For the best results, stick with darker chocolates rich in antioxidants.
  • Garlic: A review of around 39 studies found garlic can reduce your “bad” LDL cholesterol by 9 mg/dL. This is thanks to the presence of a compound called allicin. So add an extra clove to your bolognese, for health reasons!

As a woman, keeping your heart healthy during phases in your life such as pregnancy and menopause is essential. Would you like a little more information on how to stay heart healthy? The professionals at Miami Center of Excellence are here to help you. Discuss your concerns with us at your next appointment, or schedule an appointment online, or over the phone at (305) 515-5425.

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