Heart disease kills more women in the United States every year than every kind of cancer combined. What makes this chronic disease more tragic is that it is very preventable. Sure, family history plays a small role, as does race (African-Americans are more prone to it that Caucasians), but those factors account for only a handful of occurrences. Now is the time to think about how to protect your heart! Here’s how:
1. Lol Every Day
That’s right, honey! Laugh out loud! Laughter is the best stress reliever and it’s contagious, so you’ll be helping everyone around you live better, too!
2. Eat Lots of Whole Grains
Whole grains are a healthful, easy way to help your heart. You can find yummy whole grains in breakfast cereals, some pretzels, and in whole grain breads and pastas.
3. Stop Smoking, Right Now
Heart disease is caused by cholesterol filling in damaged areas in our arteries. Where does the damage come from? SMOKING. If you smoke, stop NOW. If you don’t smoke, DON’T START.
4. Cardio Counts
Your heart is a muscle, and just like any other muscle, it needs exercise to stay healthy! So get moving! Get your heart pumping fast for half an hour three times a week.
5. Don’t Worry, Be Happy!
Again, stress is factor in heart disease. Controlling, uptight Type A personalities tend to suffer more from heart disease, so let go of the small things, and focus on the good!
6. Look at Your Tree
Look at your family tree, especially at the people in your immediate family. Do any of them have heart disease, high blood pressure (hypertension), or diabetes? If you, you could be at risk, too.
7. Know Your HDLs from Your LDLs
Here’s the low-down on cholesterol: it’s not all bad for you. In fact, HDL cholesterol is actually GOOD for you. However, LDL cholesterol is BAD. Check the labels of the foods you eat and avoid ANYTHING with trans fats. It may not be labeled that way, so also keep your eyes open for anything that says “hydrogenated.” That’s where the trans fats are, and that’s where the LDL cholesterol is. Stay away!
8. Check Your Pressure
Another risk factor for heart disease is hypertension, otherwise known as high blood pressure. Eating a diet high in sodium (we only need 500 mg per day) can cause high blood pressure, among other things. Every time you go to the doctor, ask them to check your blood pressure. It’s free, and it’s always good to know.
9. Be a Girl, if You Can Help It
That’s right! Women of child-bearing age are at a much lower risk for heart disease because our estrogen means more HDL cholesterol (that’s the GOOD kind). However, once we reach menopause, our risk sky-rockets.
10. Get off the Couch!
What better way to work out our hearts and to relieve stress? Put down the remote, grab your iPod, and get moving!
11. Spread the Word
I’ll bet your friends don’t know the risks. Tell them! It’s a lot easier to change bad habits and start new, good habits if everyone knows why. And you might just save someone’s life!
12. Get Support
It’s also a lot easier to change your habits if you have a buddy, someone to work-out with, someone to help you resist the temptation to sit on the couch and eat those Doritos.
If you implement one of these habits each week for twelve consecutive weeks, you’ll be amazed at how good you feel. Even better than how good you’ll feel in the short term is how happy your heart will be twenty, thirty, or even sixty years from now!
Are you already working on keeping your heart healthy? What do you do to relieve stress or stick to a cardio regimen? Please let me know!
Photo Credit: flickr.com