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It’s something women should keep in mind. As a refresher, here are the five top ways to keep your heart healthy:
Quit smoking – or never start
Not smoking is the number one thing women can do to reduce their risk of heart disease and stroke.
Just 24 hours after quitting, chance of heart attack decreases, and after one year, risk of heart attack is half that of a smoker. Healthcare practitioners can offer support and information on treatment options available for people who want to quit smoking.
Exercise 30 minutes each day
Risk of heart disease increases twofold with a sedentary lifestyle, and close to half of all women over the age of 12 are physically inactive. The Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that Canadians incorporate 30 to 60 minutes of exercise into each day, a goal that can be built up to slowly.
Women should consult a physician before beginning any new activity if they have a heart condition, are 45 or older, or are between 35 and 45 and have risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, or a family history of heart disease.
Following a low-fat diet, lowering salt intake and eating at least five servings of vegetables and fruit per day – the equivalent 2.5 cups - will put women on the right track to heart health.
Eating a diet low in saturated and trans fats is important – eating too much saturated fat may raise the bad LDL cholesterol and lower the good HDL cholesterol, which can increase the risk of high blood pressure, narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attack and stroke.
Know and control blood pressure
High blood pressure affects one in five Canadians. Monitoring and controlling blood pressure can reduce risk of stroke by up to 40 per cent, risk of heart disease by 50 per cent and risk of heart failure by up to 25 per cent.
It’s important for women to have blood pressure tested by a doctor, and to discuss what test results mean. Blood pressure can be reduced by lowering salt intake, following a healthy diet, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, increasing physical activity and taking blood pressure medication.
Manage cholesterol levels
Close to 45 per cent of Canadian women between the ages of 18 and 74 have cholesterol levels that are too high.
Cholesterol and triglycerides are naturally produced by the body, and they also come from food eaten — especially from foods high in saturated and trans fats. High triglyceride levels may be a more serious risk factor for women than for men.
It’s important for women to know their actual cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to discuss with their doctor where their levels should be, and what treatment options are available for people who have high cholesterol.
Triglyceride and LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein)-cholesterol levels can be lowered with a healthy eating plan, including substituting unsaturated for saturated and trans fats, and lowering fat intake overall.
More ways to make a change
The Heart and Stroke Foundation's Heart Truth campaign is a three-year project to raise women's awareness of their risk of heart disease. The Heartbeats tool available on the site helps women make small but significant lifestyle changes to improve their heart health and help to prevent heart disease.
• Heart disease and stroke are the leading cause of death for Canadian women, but risk can be reduced by as much as 80 per cent through simple lifestyle changes.
• Because heart disease and stroke share many of the same root causes, many prevention efforts give women additional health benefits by protecting them against both heart disease and stroke.
• While one in three Canadian women die of heart disease and stroke, most don’t know that it’s their most serious health concern. The Heart Truth campaign educates women about identifying their risks and warning signs of heart disease and stroke. The Heart Truth provides women with the tools they need to take charge of their heart health. The campaign is especially relevant for women 40 to 60 years old, whose risk increases as they age.