Welcome to Healthy Tips! Every other month we will post useful health care tips for women here on our website. These will cover topics of interest to women of all ages. We hope you find the information helpful.
Heart Disease: Key Steps to Prevention
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in American women. It affects 43 million women in the United States each year, yet few are aware of the dangers. Since 1984, more women than men have died from heart disease, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).
February is Heart Health Awareness Month, which is promoted by educational initiatives such as the AHAs “Go Red for Women.” Increasing awareness of heart disease is helping more women learn ways to protect themselves against this danger. Here are some steps that you can take to reduce your risk and stay heart healthy for life. In fact, the American Heart Association states that 80 percent of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented by making lifestyle changes! Even if you have a family history of heart disease, you can increase your odds of living longer by living healthier.
Cardiologists say there are four major areas that have the greatest impact on heart health: Exercise, eating well, managing stress and not smoking. These “Big Four,” combined with watching your cholesterol and triglycerides, monitoring your blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting recommended health screenings, can go a long way toward reducing your risk of heart disease.
* The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic exercise each day. This includes walking, biking, dancing, skating, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or workouts on various cardio equipment at the gym. If you cannot fit in 30 minutes daily, shoot for intervals of 10 to 15 minutes. Strength training two times per week for 20 minutes is also recommended as it helps build muscle and keeps your metabolism in high gear.
* Every hour spent sitting in front of a computer or the television increases your risk of heart disease. Exercise can help reduce this risk, but it’s the sitting itself that is the culprit. Sitting all day then exercising for an hour is not enough. You need to make it a point to stand up and move around frequently throughout the day. Try standing up to make phone calls, or set your watch or phone so that every 30 minutes you get up and move around. At home, do as many chores as possible while standing. If watching TV, get up and move on the commercials. As one physician said, for this generation, sitting is as dangerous as smoking was to previous generations.
* Shoot for a diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. It is important to also include “healthy fats,” such as those found in nuts and avocados. Twice a week aim for servings of “oily” fish such as salmon. Your doctor, or a nutritionist, can help you outline a good eating plan and figure portion size. Local bookstores and the Internet can be good sources for cookbooks with recipes that are both tasty and healthy.
* Reduce consumption of both sugary drinks and diet drinks.
* Reduce consumption of processed foods, which tend to be high in sugar, salt and unhealthy additives such as high fructose corn syrup.
* Spend time with friends. Having a good circle of friends helps reduce stress which aids your blood pressure and your heart.
* Spend time with your spouse. Having a strong relationship with your partner improves the health and well-being of both of you.
* Take time for you. Even ten minutes of “me time” can lower blood pressure on a stressful day.
* Find a hobby you enjoy; plan spa time or another activity you look forward to; consider taking up yoga or tai chi, which promote a healthy mind and body.
* Regular exercise will also reduce stress, and if done with a friend, can promote social relationships as well.
* Learn relaxation breathing techniques for those times when life seems overwhelming.
* Get your flu shot. Getting your flu shot reduces your risk of heart attack by 36 percent.
* Get your rest. Shoot for at least 7 hours of good sleep per night.
* Get an annual physical.
* Get your cholesterol and triglycerides checked annually.
* Get your blood pressure checked regularly and know what is a healthy number for you. Your doctor can advise you.
* If you are a smoker, quit! Your doctor can help you find a smoking cessation option that works for you. It is never to late to quit and reap the health benefits.
Your doctor can advise you on recommended screenings based on your health, family history, and age. However, some to ask about are:
* Baseline echocardiogram
* Test for C-reactive protein
* Stress test
* As noted, annual screenings for cholesterol and triglycerides, as well as regular blood pressure checkups, are recommended.
It is important to know your family’s medical history and to make your doctor aware. Your doctor may recommend screenings or other lifestyle changes based on this history. For example, if your father had a heart attack before age 50, the odds of you having one are doubled. If your mother had a heart attack before age 60, your risk increases by 70 percent, according to the American Heart Association. You should also find out if anyone in your family (parents, grandparents, siblings) has had a stroke, heart failure, heart rhythm disorder, aneurysm or angina.
If a first-degree relative (think parents, siblings) has high blood pressure before the age of 60, your risk of having it increases two-fold. Because high blood pressure can damage your heart and blood vessels over time, it should be monitored closely; this is especially true if others in your family already have the condition.
Diabetes can also put your heart at risk, and increase the danger of stroke. If one parent has Type 2 diabetes, your risk is increased, and if both parents have the disease, your risk is doubled. With this type of family history, your doctor will most likely recommend several blood tests to monitor your blood glucose levels over a period of time. The good news is that healthy lifestyle changes can also help keep diabetes at bay.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.
Exercising offers many benefits to pregnant women. Not only will it help prevent excess weight gain, it will also boost your energy, help you sleep better, and support your immune system.
Exercising in winter can be more challenging, but there are still plenty of options. You may not be hitting the slopes or the skating rink but outdoors or indoors, you can find a workout that works for you.
As with any exercise program, consult with your doctor before starting one.
* Cross-country skiing on a level, easy course is a great all-over workout. Cross-country also allows you to ski at your own pace.
* Snowshoeing also provides a good workout, and again, allows you to go at your own pace. You can also choose terrain that you are comfortable with.
* Walking is always good, but you need to be careful of icy roadsides and walkways.
* If outdoor walking is not feasible, head to the mall. Many malls have indoor walking routes and quite a few also have walking clubs so you can exercise with friends.
* Swimming in an indoor pool, or a moderate class of aquacise is great exercise.
* Yoga provides excellent toning while building strength, stamina and flexibility. A number of yoga instructors also offer classes designed for moms-to-be.
As with any fitness program, the most successful ones are comprised of activities you enjoy, and are usually a mix. Try swimming one day, walking the next, and maybe snowshoeing on the weekend. This way, you don’t get bored and you use different sets of muscles.
When exercising, be sure not to get overheated. If exercising causes cramping, excessive exhaustion or rapid heart rate, stop and consult with your doctor before resuming any exercise program.
Staying strong, fit and healthy will help make your pregnancy easier, and ensure a healthy baby.
For more information about Partners for Women’s Health, call (603) 778-0557.