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By Tallulah Ray
In America, 1 in 4 women will eventually die from heart disease. In fact, more women die of heart disease than men and that gap is just getting bigger.
The major reason that women eventually get heart disease or have heart attacks is because of the blockage of coronary arteries. Those are the arteries that take blood to the heart.
“What causes blocked arteries?”
Well, there are many different reasons that arteries can get blocked. As far as women’s statistics goes, the main reasons that our arteries get blocked is because of MVD (coronary microvascular disease) which basically means that our tiny arteries can get tinier (or get blocked easily).
The other major reason is “broken heart syndrome.” Yes it is real and it means extreme emotional stress has led to short-term heart muscle failure. I could say that these statistics are heart-breaking but instead of throwing a horrible pun at you, I’ll just give you some things that you can do to lessen your chances of eventually having heart disease.
#1) Get A Dog
Studies have shown that having a pet lessens stress in a household. Now, the key to this is getting the right pet. Dogs are fantastic but if you get the wrong kind of dog, you could be in for a little extra stress. Cats are generally less maintenance but not all people are cat people.
A study done on New York stockbrokers saw a significant decrease in their blood pressure (compared to the participants who didn’t have a pet).
#2) Manage Your Blood Sugar
Yes, that means watching what you eat. This goes hand-in-hand with lowering your cholesterol. A heart healthy diet consists of a lot of vegetables, low-sodium foods, a healthy balance of nutrients, and low saturated fat.
If you work best under “strict” rules, you could try a healthy diet plan. Some of the “fad” diets that have a tendency of being heart healthy (yay) include:
- Weight Watchers (not to mention, they have some great support groups too!)
- Volumetrics (“Feeling full on fewer calories”)
- The Supermarket Diet (Yes, it’s real. This one is my favorite because it teaches you some great habits for healthy eating, it focuses on moderation, and there is calorie counting involved. Not to mention, it involves cooking your own food so you get to control the ingredients that go into your body.)
- The South Beach Diet (Well for one thing, it’s written by a cardiologist. It’s good for you because if focuses on lean protein, good fats, and it eliminates carbohydrates that generally have no nutrients. Empty carbs are the devil.)
#3) Look Into Your Family
It’s a good thing to know your family history anyway. Looking into what diseases are prevalent in your family is a good practice. Talk to your parents, look into your records, and talk to your doctor.
#4) Stay Active
Exercising regularly is good for every single part of your body, including your heart. I can’t emphasize that enough. Now, if you’re going to start an exercise program, you have to go through a couple of steps, just to make sure that you’re going about it in a healthy way.
Make sure you check your doctor and double check your medications. Sometimes certain medications can cause things like shortness of breath. Those side effects could really mess with you if you start an exercise regimen.
As far as heart healthy exercises go, try focusing on these two activities:
- Stretching increases your range of motion and flexibility while preventing you from getting injuries while you exercise. It only takes a few minutes and is great for you and your heart.
Aerobic Activity strengthens your lungs and heart. It is the most beneficial for your heart. If you do aerobic activity regularly, your heart rate will eventually decrease (as well as your blood pressure). It also helps your breathing. So if you find yourself getting short of breath easily, you could probably benefit from some regular aerobic activity.
#5) Don’t Smoke
People who smoke, do so for a number of reasons (stress-relief, peer pressure which eventually becomes addiction, etc.). A lot of people outgrow it but for those who are still addicted, I’m not sure if they realize that the reasons they enjoy a cigarette can be fulfilled without a cigarette.
There are healthier ways to relieve stress. There are support groups that can help you with the addiction. There is even medication to help with the addiction.
In fact, if you’re having issues with the different steps to living a healthier lifestyle, I suggest starting your own support group with your friends. Pledge to set goals as a group and for yourself. It’s always more fun to do things with your friends (versus by yourself) and you know each other’s weaknesses and strengths.