Women tend to put the needs of others first. Taking care of
oneself gets mistakenly equated with being selfish.
It can’t be emphasized enough that the self-care you give
yourself today determines what life looks like 10, 20, or more years down the
road. Will you be able to physically do what you want to do?
Let’s say you make through your 40’s with no heart health
related issues. Cholesterol levels are good. Blood pressure is within normal.
Then your 50’s roll around and next thing you know you’re on medication to
either lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, or both. Some more time goes by
and you start experiencing angina, which is chest pain tied to reduced blood
flow to the heart likely caused by your high cholesterol levels leading to
narrowed arteries. More medication is added to the mix (which we all know comes
with it’s own unpleasant side effects) and next thing you know all you want to
do is sit on the couch and not move because it hurts too much or you just don’t
have the energy. An all too common scenario and even more frustrating because
it is largely preventable.
While heart disease is often considered a “man’s disease,”
around the same number of women and men die each year of heart disease in the
United States. Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of
women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer. One in every four women die of heart
The older you get the
higher your risk for heart disease and stroke.
Starting healthy behaviors, such as eating a healthy diet
and exercising regularly, early in life lowers your risk for heart disease and
stroke later in life. But it is never too
late to start practicing heart-healthy behaviors.
Do you know your risk
for heart disease?
If not, get screened. Screening tests will identify heart
disease or stroke risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
and diabetes. This is especially important if you have a family history of
Take steps to
strengthen your heart and promote heart health, including…
1.If you smoke, stop.
2. If you consume alcohol daily, cut back. Women: Limit
yourself to one drink or less daily. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5
ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
3. Increase your physical activity. The heart is a muscle
and strengthened through exercise.
4. Make wise food choices. Whole grains, lots of fruits and
vegetables (they have many anti-inflammatory properties to protect the heart!),
select lean cuts of meat. Eliminate trans fats (usually found in processed
foods), reduce sodium intake, cut back on added sugars (e.g. soda, candy,
4. Get your weight within a healthy range. I always dislike
including this step because if you’re overweight it can feel so overwhelming…
and you likely already know you need to lose weight. Take it one pound at a
time. The extra weight is making your heart work harder to circulate blood
throughout your system.
Make self-care a
priority. How you fuel and move your body today impacts whether or not you
will be doing what you want down the road.
All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Women and Heart Disease Fact Sheet