Cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer of American women killing eight times more women than breast cancer and two times as many women as all cancers combined. When we look at heart attacks it is important to remember that 90% of heart attacks are preventable, and are attributable to nine major risk factors; these include abnormal cholesterol, a history of smoking, having high blood pressure, having diabetes, having an increase in abdominal girth, in other words carrying most of your fat around the abdomen, having high stress in your life, not eating a proper diet of fruits and vegetables and a lot of whole grains, not exercising and interestingly not drinking alcohol in moderation. There are major risk factors for women. The first really is cigarette smoking, which can increase your risk two to seven times. And you don’t have to smoke a pack of cigarettes. It could be as few as two to three cigarettes that increase your risk. The second is high blood pressure, followed by high cholesterol, having diabetes, and being overweight, especially if you carry most of the weight around your abdomen. An easy way to know about that is that if your waist is more than 35 inches, then you are carrying too much weight around your abdomen. Finally, having a sedentary lifestyle and being postmenopausal increases your risk. Genetics does play a role, but the bottom line is that there are 5 healthy habits that a woman can do that would lead to greater than an 82% reduction in their risk for heart disease. These things include: absolutely not smoking nor being around secondary smoke; exercising for at least 30 minutes a day; eating a heart healthy diet that is low in saturated fats (that means animal fat) and has a lot of fruits, vegetables of color, complex carbohydrates like whole grains; and making sure that your weight is not in excess and that your waist is not more than 35 inches. Finally, having a single serving of alcohol daily may offer protection for women. Other recommendations could include talking to your physician about taking Omega-3 fatty acid (fish oil) supplements and considering a daily low dose baby aspirin.
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Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, Cardiology, answered
Women can prevent cardiovascular disease by making smart lifestyle choices, being proactive about diet and exercise, and properly managing stress. Watch cardiologist Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, discuss what women can do to ensure a healthy heart for life.