By far, the best weapon to fight off cardiovascular disease is a healthy lifestyle full of nutritious foods and plenty of exercise. Did you know your heart is a muscle just like your bicep? And just like your bicep, you need to give your heart some form of a workout every day to keep it healthy and strong. Regardless of the intensity level, every bit of exercise helps keep your heart in shape to fight off high blood pressure, high cholesterol and weight gain, which are some of the leading causes of heart disease.
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for both men and women. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, more women die each year from heart disease than from all forms of cancer combined! Heart disease is especially dangerous for women because there are so few outward symptoms, leaving you to guess about your risk. So, how do you avoid letting heart disease creep up on. By understanding the risks and symptoms before you experience them first hand.
Let’s start by focusing on the easiest risk factor to diagnose: high blood pressure. Through a simple, pain free blood pressure test at your annual physical (don’t forget to make your appointment!) you will know if you are at risk for heart disease! The top reading (systolic pressure) measures pressure when the heart is contracting, and the bottom reading (diastolic pressure) measures pressure when your heart is relaxed; the doctor looks at both. Although there is still debate on the exact definition of “normal”, a normal reading for systolic pressure is less than 120 and a normal reading for diastolic pressure is less than 80.Readings of 130-139 (systolic) and/or 80-89 (diastolic) are considered mild hypertension. Most annual physicals include a blood pressure check. If you aren’t getting this test at your annual physical, be sure to ask for it!
According to the American Heart Association, high blood pressure is a serious risk factor for both heart attacks and strokes. If you do have high blood pressure, one of the best ways to bring it down, is through regular exercise. So, let’s get moving to keep our hearts healthy!
Here are a few additional tips:
· Eat more heart-healthy foods, including fish, poultry, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cheese and skim or low-fat milk.
· If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink a day.
· If you smoke, it's high time to quit this deadly habit!
· Get your cholesterol checked at regular intervals.
· Start exercising on a regular basis — even 20 minutes will do the trick.
Be sure to talk to your doctor about your personal heart-health history and genetic risks. Do everything you can to prevent cardiovascular disease and share this lifesaving advice with your friends, sisters, daughters, and other women in your life. You'll be glad you did!