By B.A. Dobson

Heart Health Awareness month is just aaround the corner, and ladies, we need to be paying attention. You see, the facts are…

  • Heart disease and stroke is the leading cause of death among Canadian women.
  • Women are more likely than men to die of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Women are 10X more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than from any other disease.
  • Despite all the media and public focus on breast cancer, women are six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
  • One in eight women between the ages of 45-64 lives with cardiovascular disease.
  • Cardiovascular disease kills more women aged 65 and older than allcancers combined.

But the good news is that you have the power to prevent and/or greatly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by taking the following steps to protect your heart health.

Get Up Close and Personal With Your numbers: Being aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are important. Normal blood pressure ranges between 120/80 to 130/85, while your total blood cholesterol (TBD) count should be 5.2 or less. Also, be sure to ask your doctor to measure both your LDL (“bad”) and HDL (“good”) cholesterol, the ratio of these to your TBD, and your triglyceride levels, with a fasting blood test.

Pass on the Smokes: Did you know that smoking as few as four cigarettes/day makes you seven times more likely to develop heart disease? If you smoke, quitting is the single most important thing you can do to decrease your risk of heart disease. Not starting is even better.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake: When it comes to alcohol and heart health, if you don’t drink, don’t start, and if you do indulge, keep your intake at a moderate level. For women, one drink/day or less is recommended (FYI: ‘one drink’ = one beer, a 5 oz. glass of wine or 1.5 oz. of liquor).

Just De-Stress: In today’s society, the demands of work and family life mean that many women are hustling through life at a frenzied and highly stressful pace. But too much negative stress (i.e. the distress you may feel when the demands of life seem greater than your ability to cope with them) can increase your blood pressure, feelings of anxiety, and also result in you having a very short fuse. So, do your best to infuse some mind-clearing R ’n’ R (e.g. meditation, yoga or a meandering stroll through a park) into your day to keep yourself on an even keel.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: Being overweight significantly increases your chances of developing heart disease. Choosing to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet (one that is high in complex carbohydrates, fibre, leaner meats and foods prepared with little to no fat or sodium) and engaging in 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise most days of the week will go a long way to keep your body lean and your heart healthy.

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