February is Heart Month. It’s a perfect time to raise awareness about heart disease, especially for women. Though often thought of as a man’s disease, women account for nearly 50 percent of heart disease deaths. According to WomenHeart.org more than 200,000 women die each year from heart attacks–five times as many women who die from breast cancer. So what can you do to prevent being a statistic?
We know that lifestyle plays a big role in disease prevention. If you’re active, eat well, and lead a relatively balanced lifestyle, your risk for disease drops. However, ignoring stress, inactivity and poor lifestyle choices will put you at an increased risk of a heart attack. You can take control of your health and reduce your risk of heart disease with the following simple steps.
You must exercise. We all have a busy lifestyle, yet we manage to find time for our favorite television shows or social media activity. You need to find time for exercise. People dismiss exercise simply because they feel its only purpose is weight loss; that is not true. Regular exercise controls your weight while reducing the risks of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes, all of which put stress on the heart.
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym, simply 30 minutes 5 days a week can have a dramatic impact on your health. If you can’t find 30 minutes, break it up in to 10 minute segments. Yes, that counts. Parking farther away from your destination or taking stairs versus escalators all play a role in keeping your heart healthy. Unfortunately, those little steps don’t get the credit they deserve. A little bit of something is better than a lot of nothing.
2. Reduce stress
Though easier said than done, stress is a big contributor to heart disease. Try adopting one or more of these stress busting strategies.
• Try yoga 1x per week. Get a DVD if you don’t have time for a class.
• Deep breathing. When stress hits stop and take five deep breaths.
• Meditation. Even five minutes a day can help reduce stress.
• Lay off the caffeine. Kicking up your heart rate can add to stress.
• Ask for help. If you’re being spread too thin, find a friend, neighbor, family member, or professional to lighten your load.
3. Lose weight
Although women seem to be constantly battling their weight, it’s typically for the wrong reasons. Wanting to reach an unrealistic goal can trigger frustration and push you away from further weight loss efforts. Rather than focus on weight, focus on your health. Your weight must be healthy in order to be healthy.
Note: The weight we put on in adulthood is mostly fat. Extra weight increases your chance of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Reducing your weight by just 10 percent can improve your health. Next time you diet, don’t do it just to wear a smaller size, do it to increase the quality and length of your life.
If you’re sedentary, take small steps to become more active. If you have a lot of stress in your life, reduce it. If you’re overweight, take practical steps to lose it. It’s the surest way to a healthy heart.
Changing your lifestyle to save your health is a choice. What choice will you make today?