Protecting Your Heart Health

Real Simple recently conducted an interview with Nieca Goldberg, a famous cardiologist and associate professor at New York University, about women and heart disease. Heart disease is often stereotyped as a “man’s disease” even though it is currently the number one killer of U.S. women, claiming nearly 500,000 lives annually.

Read the full article here.

Many women have a family history of heart disease, but Goldberg outlines a series of diet, exercise, and stress management techniques that can help women prevent future problems. We’ve summarized them below:

Change Your Habits

  • Have a low-cholesterol breakfast. Fiber is filling, and the soluble form―found in oatmeal, beans, fruits, vegetables, and this cereal―can lower cholesterol. Aim for 25 grams of fiber a day.
  • Take a supplement, if necessary. An omega-3 fatty-acid supplement daily if you don’t eat fish regularly. Choose one with the two forms of the acids that aid the heart: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).
  • Be honest with your doctors. Goldberg implores patients to see her as a nonjudgmental confidante. Your doctors can give you the best help only when they really know all the information.”
  • Take baby aspirin, if needed. For those people who are at high risk for heart disease, who have it, or who are over the age of 65, taking a daily baby aspirin (81 milligrams) is a cheap and effective prevention.

Cut Back Where Needed

  • Drink caffeine conservatively. Less than 300 milligrams a day, which is the equivalent of two to three cups. Or consider an alternative, like green tea, which has less caffeine but is rich in antioxidants that can improve the flexibility of your arteries, which may help prevent plaque from building up in them.
  • Eat sweets sparingly. A 2008 study found that women with elevated blood-sugar levels had a risk of developing coronary heart disease similar to that of women with full-blown diabetes.
  • Tweak family recipes. Instead of frying foods, the doctor bakes or grills, and she uses whole-grain pasta and brown rice in lieu of basic white.
  • Make small changes. (They work.) Cut down on smoking, start exercising more, and eat better. Even modest efforts make a huge impact.

Watch Your Diet

  • Stick with fresh foods. Don’t eat a meal from a package.
  • Snack smartly. Snacks prevent overeating at night. A snack like walnuts will have omega-3 fatty acids, and almonds contain arginine, which helps keep arteries strong.
  • Try a Mediterranean diet. Studies have shown that people who follow a Mediterranean diet have a 50 to 70 percent lower risk of recurrent heart disease, and those who get at least five servings of vegetables a day have about a 25 percent lower risk of a heart attack.

Do a Little More (or Less)

  • Go with red wine. Red, in particular, has a high concentration of the antioxidant resveratrol, which can help maintain blood vessels’ health.
  • Throw salt overboard. Since excess salt can increase blood pressure, keep your sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day.
  • Do better than butter. Benecol or Smart Balance both have plant-derived stanol esters, which can help lower bad cholesterol.

Stick to a Routine

  • Make exercise nonnegotiable. Don’t cancel appointments to exercise; it keeps cholesterol and blood pressure under control.
  • Take stress seriously. Constant stress can lead to elevated levels of adrenaline and the hormone cortisol, which makes arteries more vulnerable to plaque.
  • Sack out early. Studies show that people who get less than seven hours of shut-eye a night can have higher blood pressure. Lack of sleep also leads to higher levels of cortisol and even weight gain.

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Source: “17 Ways to Safeguard Your Heart”

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